The Room is easily the most wonderfully terrible film ever created. For perspective, The Room is a film written, directed, produced by, Tommy Wiseau, a complete unknown in both the film industry and the world itself before this movie was released. Wiseau badly wanted to make a movie, but had no knowledge of film whatsoever. He did, however, find a rabbit hole of funding. The resulting picture is so fundamentally broken that it’s one of the most unintentionally hysterical movies ever made. The perfect whirlwind of incompetence displayed in every frame of that movie has proven impossible to recreate in recent years with the “so bad it’s good” film craze that every flick other than the irritating, but popular Sharknado franchise has fallen well short. Paying homage to a movie so beautifully inept takes a special sort of film, and unfortunately The Disaster Artist, which is a big-screen adaptation of the book of the same name by Wiseau’s best friend Greg Sestero, doesn’t quite get there.
Before the message gets misconstrued, this movie is not bad. In fact, it’s quite good. The writing is fantastic, and the performance from James Franco as Wiseau is convincing enough to hopefully earn him an Academy Award nomination. In a vacuum, this is a very funny movie about two guys, Wiseau and Sestero (played by Dave Franco), trying to make a good movie and instead making a movie that was so bad it was good. But considering its inescapable context, this movie feels like it could have been so much better.
The picture feels much more like a fan film than anything else because instead of spending the majority of the run time telling the story of Wiseau and Sestero, the movie shifts from that narrative into a montage of clips about the creation of The Room once the second act of the film begins. This problem stems from the movie’s basis on a book that much more evenly spread its coverage between the creation of The Room and the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero. Franco also directed the movie, and he decided to start the film by creating a case study of Wiseau and Sestero’s odd friendship. This portion showcases the potential this film had, but instead of building on the promising start Franco spends the second half of The Disaster Artist focusing on the making of the movie. Everything that happens once the film production begins is essentially a recreation of various scenes from The Room. These scenes are funny, but it still feels like a “Best Film” kind of movie could have come out of this production if Franco had stuck with the beats that defined the movie’s first half.
Now, for what it is, The Disaster Artist is a lot of fun. Franco is simply brilliant in his role as Wiseau, and according to screenwriter Michael H. Weber and cast member Paul Scheer, both of whom spoke to the crowd following a screening of the film at the Loews Boston Common on Wednesday, Franco directed the film in character as Wiseau. Scheer explained that often he was unsure if Franco was yelling at him as his character—who is the director of the movie being made within the movie—or as the actual director of the film. The supporting cast was serviceable, but none of them are particularly stellar in their roles. Dave Franco basically plays himself as Sestero, while Seth Rogen and the aforementioned Scheer headline the rest of the supporting cast. There are numerous celebrity cameos as well as various famous people, including Hannibal Burress, Sharon Stone, and Zoey Deutch, playing small roles throughout the film. These appearances are funny but feel quite unnecessary, as their characters serve very little purpose but become important simply because they are played by an actor everyone knows.
The plot is finely tuned and the character writing is superb, but there are a few moments throughout the story, namely the corny and irritating ending, that simply seem far too exaggerated to have actually happened. The cinematography is average at best, with no visually interesting shots or fun editing, but that can be easily ignored because the endless barrage of comedic moments has the audience laughing so hard that it’s difficult to focus on the simplicity of the camerawork. Franco’s direction is nothing to call home about, but nobody should expect it to be anything more than that. His track record is littered with far more bad films than good, and the good ones normally star himself and his famous comedian friends like Rogen, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, and others. The Disaster Artist is entertaining, funny, and a decent homage to the greatest bad movie in the history of film. It isn’t the best movie of the year, and it isn’t a generation-defining mockumentary, but it most certainly is not a disaster.
Featured Image by A24 Films