In 2003, Tommy Wiseau’s film The Room was released in 1 cinema in the US. Derided as one of the worst films ever made, the film has gone on to become a cult classic and beloved for all of its unintentional humour. Director James Franco takes a look behind the scenes at the making of the film, and Winseau’s relationship with his star Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), to find out just how The Room came to be.
Often screened at midnight with tons of audience participation, The Room has gone from being named “The Citizen Kane of bad movies” to a cult classic, since its initial release in 2003. Fans of the film include Kristen Bell, J.J. Abrams, Kevin Smith and Adam Scott – all of whom appear in taking heads at the start if The Disaster Artist – but the making of the film and the life of its creator, Tommy Wiseau, have remained shrouded in secrecy. This mystery is what director James Franco attempts to unravel in The Disaster Artist.
James Franco, as well as directing, leads the cast as the enigmatic, strange yet somehow charismatic Tommy Wiseau. Underneath a long dark hair do and an accent of undeterminable origin, Franco is almost unrecognisable, but he brings the over the top character of Wiseau to life and, although Wiseau is a person who is almost a parody in himself, Franco manages to create an emotional connection between the character and the audience; no mean feat. Opposite Franco, Dave Franco plays Greg Sestero, long time friend of Wiseau; a young actor determined to succeed but finds himself struggling in LA until Wiseau decides that if he cannot get cast in other people’s films, he will make one of his own. The relationship between the Francos on screen is believable and real and both do well with their roles. As mentioned, Wiseau is a somewhat easier character to play as nothing about him seems to hinge on nuance, but Dave Franco, arguably best known for his comedic work, makes Greg Sestero feel real and relatable. The rest of the cast is a testament to just how beloved The Room is, with Sharon Stone, Jacki Weaver, Megan Mulally, Bryan Cranston and Casey Wilson turning up in blink an you miss it roles, with Seth Rogen, Jason Mantzoukas, Judd Apatow, Zac Efron, Sugar Lyn Beard, Alison Brie, Bob Odenkirk, Paul Scheer and Tommy Wiseau himself filling out the rest of the cast.
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s screenplay is based on the book of the same name by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, and tells the story through Greg Sestero’s yes, having met and admired Tommy Wiseau in acting class. The story culminates with the premiere of The Room, after the two move to LA together and struggle to make it as actors, both believing strongly in their talent… Rightly or Wrongly. Of course, Tommy Wiseau is the focal character in the film, and the film sometimes struggles without this almost inexplicable character on the screen, but the rumours and gossip that surround him keep the film going until he appears again.
As director, James Franco makes sure that Tommy Wiseau is front and centre of the film, and although he does not shy away from making fun of the character, while also making him a source of fascination. The comedy is well balanced throughout the film, and serves to underline the state of mind of Wiseau, as well as his delusions of grandeur, which never seem to have left him. The film is well paced throughout and manages to wrap up just before it wears out its welcome. James Franco has directed 28 projects in recent years, and it seems he has learned from his mistakes, as The Disaster Artist is funny, sweet and engaging, even as it struggles with Franco himself is not on screen, and never manages to fully unwrap the mystery of Wiseau.
In all, The Disaster Artist is a film for fans of The Room, as well as those of us who have never managed to subject ourselves to it. The cast are wonderful, Franco does well both on and off the screen, and the heightened feel of the film fits with the heightened behaviour of the lead character. That said, the film does struggle in Franco’s absence, and the questions the audience has about Wiseau are never truly answered.