By: Nikolai Robinson
I’ve never seen “The Room.” I’ve never had the desire to. All I know, and all that you really need to know, is that it’s highly regarded as the worst film of all time- it’s nonsensical, amateur filmmaking devoid of plot, talent, and coherence. So, I went into James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist”, a comedy-drama film about the making of this so-called disaster, not really comprehending the absolute oddity that is filmmaker Tommy Wiseau and his debut film. I walked out a fan of the Franco Brothers and, to be honest, kind of interested to watch “The Room.”
A brief synopsis: aspiring actor Greg (Dave Franco) befriends Tommy (James Franco) at an acting class, and soon finds out that he’s an oddly-accented, mysteriously wealthy, endlessly strange man that also longs to be a film star. The two friends move to Hollywood and struggle to get work as they endure different challenges of the star system. They eventually decide to make their own film, with Tommy writing, directing, and starring, which causes major problems along the way, both in production and in their friendship.
At the core, it’s another film about aspiring artists trying to make it big in Hollywood- not unlike last year’s critically-acclaimed “La La Land.” This, however, is the dirtier, uglier, truthful version of that age-old story, which addresses the real-life struggles of actors trying to navigate the vain, beauty-obsessed, money-focused Hollywood system. This is not only a refreshing approach, but it displays an authenticitythat instantly establishes credibility with its audience, a story that doesn’t sugarcoat an industry that’s currently under a major ethical microscope. The credibility of the friendship between Greg and Tommy also contributes to the authenticity of the narrative- because of their different personalities, ages, and approaches to their craft, it’s an unconventional, often uncomfortable, yet endearing relationship that owes its success to the real-life creative and familial relationship between brothers Dave and James Franco.
Speaking of, the Francos have never been better. James Franco, previously Oscar-nominated for his role in “127 Hours,”has the confidence, charisma, and oddity of a classic Johnny Depp character. It’s an impressive and completely original performance that’s funny, creepy, and even cringe-worthy at times, but it’s one that ultimately demonstrates his admiration, and possibly sympathy for Wiseau, as Franco has also been pigeonholed as a Hollywood misfit, as well as had his own struggles with directing. Dave Franco is also a perfect fit for the traditional straight man of the story, who is drawn to two worlds competing for his attention, that of traditional Hollywood and that of Tommy Wiseau. Rounding out the cast are the usual suspects- Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Josh Hutcherson, all of whom have starred alongside James and/or Dave in previous films.
Ultimately, “The Disaster Artist” feels like a movie tired of the dreamlike representations of Hollywood- an industry that’s never been as innocent as it’s portrayed itself to be. We see this industry through its own media- through films like “La La Land,”“Singin’ in the Rain,” or “The Artist,” through glamorous award shows or talk shows where everyone’s having a good time and living their best life. But Franco and Rogenhave struck gold here by exposing the imperfections of the industry- the unreliable talent agencies, the malicious producers, the pretentious actors. This is an engaging, well-acted, and well-paced story about a man who bypassed the system because he wanted to create his own work, despite the quality. It’s the story of Tommy Wiseau, but one that is also undoubtedly a tribute to those artists (much like Franco himself) that don’t play by the rules and who have made what they want to make, with no regard to the industry standards of money, fame or prestige.
Rating: 4/5 stars