THE DISASTER ARTIST
Director: James Franco
Screenwriter: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Cast: Dave Franco, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Jackie Weaver, Zac Efron
Screened at: Critics’ DVD, NYC, 12/5/17
Opens: December 1, 2017
Tommy Wiseau in 2003 directed, produced, wrote and stars in “The Room,” amid the howls of audiences, a movie that evoked all-out belly-laughing tremors. There was this one trouble: “The Room” was not meant to be a comedy, but rather a serious, semi-autobiographical look at the sad life of the artist. The movie was made for six million dollars, taking in $1800 on opening weekend. Too bad. Audiences should have flocked to see that one, considered by some to be the worst movie of all time, though Wiseau faced competition from Ed Wood, known for “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” and from Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls.” The good news is that a cult audience eventually propelled “The Room” into the black thanks to its showings on the midnight circuits.
James Franco not only adapts but seems to have copied the actions and lines from “The Room” to make a new movie in effect superimposed on the 2003 tale. “The Disaster Artist” is a terrific re-make, and since its aim is comedic, people can laugh with Franco just as they laughed at Wiseau.
In “The Disaster Artist,” which opened on the first of December this year, James Franco takes the role of Tommy Wiseau while Dave Franco goes with Tommy’s best friend Greg Sestero, whom Tommy calls “Baby Face” because handsome Greg is a 20-something who had probably made good at modeling. Since Greg wants more than anything to be a star in Hollywood and not to wind up pumping gas in San José, he teams up with Tommy, though Tommy’s drama coach back home tells him he did not have a chance to make it as an actor. Greg moves to LA with Tommy, sharing the strange man’s apartment, and never worries too much about how Tommy made his money—enough cash to make a six million dollar picture. Nor does he care that much about Tommy’s home base, which is allegedly New Orleans, but is more likely to have been somewhere in Eastern Europe as the man leaves out complex words like “a,” “an,” and “the.”
The more serious scenes find Tommy a depressive, concerned that the whole world has betrayed him, and never realizing that he truly did not have a talent for acting or making movies. He accuses even Greg, his best friend, the guy whose career he nurtures and who turns against him. We in the audience hope that all’s well that ends well, since if we’ve got any soul at all, we feel as sorry for a benighted Tommy as we laugh at him and feel guilty for doing so.
With Hollywood’s major funny-man Seth Rogen turning in a performance as script supervisor, “The Disaster Artist,” graced with a deliberately awkward role by the great James Franco, could get accolades at end-year awards time as one of the great comedies of a more or less weak cinematic year.
Rated R. 103 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – A-