'The Disaster Artist' film review: Franco finds a kindred spirit in a misguided visionary
James Franco - himself an award-winning actor, Indie filmmaker and college professor - has clearly found a kindred spirit in Tommy Wiseau ... a filmmaker infamous for very different reasons. Franco's magnum opus "The Disaster Artist" (opening in select cities Dec. 1) celebrates and pokes fun at Wiseau's masterwork "The Room."
In short: The true story of aspiring actors Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) and Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) following their dreams of Hollywood stardom ... by filming the best worst film ever made: 'The Room.' Alison Brie, Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson and Jacki Weaver also star.
First, a fact: "The Room" is unfathomably bad -- and yet, somehow thoroughly, inexplicably entertaining. It's perhaps the single greatest bit of accidental cinematic genius. A lazier iteration of "Disaster" would have simply clowned "The Room" incessantly -- which wouldn't have been that difficult really. But "Disaster" shares the same love for "The Room" as many of its spoon-flinging, tuxedo-rocking midnight screening hardcore faithful.
"Disaster" is more than just a behind-the-scenes docudrama recounting the making of a cult classic - this is an oddly inspiring tale of an ill-equipped artist pursuing his dreams (in spite of himself). The hook is clearly "The Room" and its extremely peculiar producer-writer-director-star Wiseau, but "Disaster" is as much a loving valentine to an obviously bonkers movie as it is a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a driven - if misguided - dreamer.
James Franco's Tommy Wiseau is an elementally weird, alien-like and mysterious figure - a man who exudes the type of blind confidence many wish for, as well as a cutting insecurity that many to wish to forget. He laughs at all the inappropriate moments and lacks even basic social graces - but he's also game for an impromptu road trip and dropping everything to chase his real aspiration: Hollywood stardom. He has virtually no filmmaking skills at all - but he is filled with a relentless passion. James Franco channels the Tommy Wiseau within himself - capturing a tragically idiosyncratic man who embodies admirable levels of self-confidence as well as painful levels of social awkwardness. And it's difficult to ignore the similarities between James Franco acting/directing/producing a film about Wiseau's own bid to act/write/direct/produce his own feature film. In many ways
"The Room" has amassed a devoted legion of fans over the last 15 years - but cult-like familiarity is not required to enjoy this awesome docudrama. "Disaster" perfectly distills the most insane and weird and inexplicable moments of the the cult classic - and leverages them brilliantly dramatic into moments that serve "Disaster" as a drama. That said, "Disaster" definitely prods and questions the most bonkers moments of "The Room" - bits of fan service that are totally accessible for "The Room" uninitiated.
Even setting aside Franco's weirdly transformative performance as Wiseau or even the hilarious behind-the-scenes moments from "The Room," the beating heart of "Disaster" is its focus on Wiseau as a starry-eyed dreamer whose ambitions exceed his talents. Wiseau is a visionary who wills "The Room" into existence through sheer determination ...and an weirdly mysterious bottomless well of money. "Disaster" is an archetypal story of a misguided man with hopes on a journey that erodes his own self-confidence and threatens to destroy his one genuine friendship. "Disaster" frames its hero as a sympathetic - if incredibly strange - force of nature.
Final verdict: "The Disaster Artist" is clearly created by fans who love "The Room" and want to tell its more compelling story: that of an oddball auteur with a dream. James Franco isn't just doing an impression - he utterly transforms into Wiseau. This is one of the very best films of 2017.
"The Disaster Artist" opens in select cities Dec. 1. This biographical comedy-drama has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.