The Disaster Artist

T: Any true fan of cult-movies surely has seen – or a least heard of – Tommy Wiseau’s infamously bad film, The Room, starring Greg Sistero and Tommy Wiseau himself.  It is infamous in the sense that it is one of those strange films that you know, with every fiber of your being, is terribly bad, but you just can’t stop yourself from watching it over and over again. With that said, The Disaster Artist, adapted from Greg Sistero’s memoir of the same name, tells the story of how this beautiful disaster of a film ever came into existence.

First and foremost, it is not essential that you have watched The Room to appreciate James Franco’s spot-on portrayal of Tommy Wiseau in his starring role of The Disaster Artist (a film he also directed nonetheless), but it does make appreciating the film all the richer. Knowing how terrible the film truly is (having watched it more times than I’d like to admit), brought to life further the aching, gut-wrenching, anxiety-ridden experience that was the making of The Room/The Disaster Artist. Witnessing what a buffoon Tommy was as an actor/director/producer; vicariously feeling the frayed nerves of nearly everybody on set; the questioning of the existence of Tommy’s endless supply of money (actually questioning the validity of anything related to Tommy); flinching at Tommy’s sometimes cruel treatment of nearly everyone, but especially the women on set; all the while simultaneously weirdly rooting for Tommy on his unique vision – a dream not yet deferred – but only through partially covered eyes as the awkwardness is almost too much to take.

With that said, the movie does seem to really play up the sentimentality of Tommy and Greg’s friendship (played by real-life brothers, James and Dave Franco, respectively). Although I do not deny they have a close friendship (and secretly hope it is as adorable as it portrayed on screen), I did feel as though Greg was a bit more honest about his perspective of Tommy in his memoir. In fact, I would argue that Greg Sistero’s book was much better than its film adaptation. I’d highly recommend reading the book in addition to watching the film in addition to watching The Room as it explained so much more while still leaving so many questions that are probably better left unanswered.

All in all, this was one of those kinds of movie-going experiences that was just fun. Okay, so it might not be this year’s Schlinder’s List (though Franco seriously is due an Oscar for this role – he’s that good), but it’s one of those feel-good films that has you cracking up over a couple of beers with your buddies all the while you forget the shit-storm that was 2017. Red Vines and I were desperate to find a theater that was showing this film (luckily, again, our favorite place, The Alamo Drafthouse, was the only nearby theater who was showing it) and we laughed the whole way through. From start to finish. All the way through the end credits. While walking to our car and the entire drive home and even now as we relive our experience while typing this.

But it’s one of those kinds of movies you just have to experience yourself to understand. Even now when I attempt to explain to my family and friends what it’s about and why they should watch it, I find myself turning into a grumpy old man in my struggle: “Well, it’s a movie that tells the story of the making of this other movie and though the movie itself is good the movie that it is about is terrible but in a really good kind of way, ya know? Dammit, I don’t know, just watch the damn movie!”

RV: It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the British version of The Office. I love the character of David Brent because he is a terrible boss (and person for that matter), yet the show, somehow, in ONLY two very short seasons still manages to make you feel constant pity for him. But by the end of the series, you are rooting for him despite his social inadequacies.

Now, the only real difference between Disaster Artist’s Tommy Wiseau and The Office’s David Brent is that Tommy Wiseau is a very real person and very much an asshole to his employees. Nevertheless, Disaster Artist would have worked if it was complete fiction and that’s the genius of Disaster Artist.  Wiseau’s incompetence and terribleness were already well documented in the book by the same name; however, Franco and his crew took that already awkward and unlikable character and they gave him heart.

By the end of the film, Tommy has pretty much been a jerk and acted like a child toward everyone, yet you will still find yourself pitying him much the same way viewers pitied David Brent during his more irredeemable moments and ultimate demise. How do Franco and company pull off this wizardry of emotion? Simple. They never tell you to like him. They never que the cheap tricks. Instead, they just show us that beneath this wacky dude who inexplicably wears two belts there is a person. Just a real person.

We’ve all felt insecure, and insecurity is the heart of Tommy’s character. He becomes much more than just a clown that we are expected to laugh at, and, by the end of the film, he becomes our very own personal Mr. Hyde, a raging monster of the very insecurities that we’ve all felt regarding relationships, status, ambition, or even our legacies.

Disaster Artist is a great movie by itself, but add the real-life truths of the story and that is where it becomes something truly remarkable to behold. This film is the definition of finding beauty in the grotesque.

4 Twizzlers: “You’re tearing me apart [from laughter]!”

5 Red Vines: “Anyway, how’s your sex life?”

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