The Disaster Artist Review: High Marks

Photo Credit:https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/12/the-disaster-artist-review/547109/

What I found most surprising about The Disaster Artist is how genuinely sweet it is. This is a film about what many have labeled the worst film ever made, and yet it roots itself in an honest story about friendship. That’s a difficult trick to pull off, and the film ultimately comes up a little short, but this story and the insanely mysterious figure of Tommy Wiseau are more than enough to raise the entertainment value of this film to audience more than willing to toss a spoon at a midnight screening of The Room.

Based on Greg Sestero’s tell-all behind the scenes of the making of that film, James Franco jumps behind the camera for The Disaster Artist, and casts his brother, Dave Franco, as Sestero, Wiseau’s actual friend and co-star on The Room. Any actual family resemblance between the two Francos is erased through prosthetics and makeup for James’ take on Wiseau, but the two brothers acting out this story of two guys who almost definitely wouldn’t have made it in Hollywood only makes it sweeter.

The Disaster Artist starts with Sestero meeting Wiseau at an acting class in San Francisco in 1998. Sestero, in his early 20s and living with his mother, sees an honesty in Wiseau, an ability to bare it all. The latter doesn’t have many friends, and he claims to be 26 and from New Orleans, though his facial features and accent immediately dismiss those claims as untrue (you really wouldn’t believe this guy actually could exist were interviews and just The Room at large not readily available). Striking up a friendship, the pair move to Los Angeles together, where Wiseau already has an apartment bought and paid for thanks to his seemingly bottomless pit of money (again, inexplicably true). But after being told “no” too many times, they decide to write and make their own movie. Wiseau does most of the legwork, and comes up with the script for The Room.

Where Franco’s version of the events falters a bit is its portrayal of Wiseau. In terms of acting, Franco does a wonderful job capturing all his mannerisms while injecting a sincere yearning for human connection that makes this figure emotionally accessible. But in terms of writing, and how little we actually know about Wiseau (really though), the film’s portrait of him, especially as filming gets started on what was likely the career worst job of everyone else involved, is almost a little too forgiving. Wiseau was truly horrible—in a sexist way on a sexist film—to Juliette Danielle (who portrayed the infamous Lisa, played here by Ari Graynor) on the set, and openly cruel to everyone who didn’t respect his “vision.” The Disaster Artist a little too easily doesn’t dive into these faults in Wiseau’s character, choosing instead to celebrate him as a figure who created arguably the best bad movie of all time. But a lot of frustration goes into making a bad film, and this film doesn’t quite do justice to the others involved who made it.

A lot of this is likely due to Franco adapting a book written by Wiseau’s actual friend, the only person who this film tells us really stood by him most of the way through. The director has indicated in interviews that Wiseau himself is okay with his portrayal of the events, so of course this version doesn’t come close to damning anyone. Instead, it shows a brotherhood between two men who tried to make something together. The Disaster Artist‘s success always comes down to its sweetness, and its ability, in the end, to make us feel for Wiseau. When the film takes us to the premiere of The Room, Franco’s performance silenced the audience I watched with, while the people surrounding Wiseau on-screen cripple him with deafening laughter. There’s tragedy laced into the unintentional entertainment, but tragedy uplifted by sincere love and support. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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