Imagine a film no one really wanted, fronted by an enigmatic auteur with a questionable past whose name is all over the credits as producer, director, lead star, etc. A match made in heaven (or San Francisco), no one was made for The Disaster Artist like James Franco is.
Tommy Wiseau, director of 2003’s The Room – the one, true Citizen Kane of Awful – has more in common with Franco, who plays him here, than you’d expect. Both have their inexplicable eccentricities. Both inspire love and derision in equal measure. Both have poured ineffable quantities of their own cash into pet projects made for themselves and themselves only.
Given Franco’s tendency to redefine the possibilities of self-indulgence with every film he directs (avoid Interior. Leather Bar.), Disaster Artist was set up to fail. But it unequivocally doesn’t. The director-producer-star’s performance as notorious oddball Wiseau is nothing short of delightful, combining alien impetuousness, lopsided surrealist humour and a childlike sense of hope and wonder.
Franco’s glittering chemistry with younger brother Dave as Greg Sestero, the naive dreamer pulled into Wiseau’s orbit (and whose memoir the film is based on), gives us a thoroughly human comedic double act for the ages. Despite the ubiquity of callbacks to Room highlights, that metatextual delight in recognition is earned because of the affection for the source material the entire cast brings to the screen – lazy cameos from Judd Apatow and Bryan Cranston notwithstanding.
Gentle and playful, it faithfully evokes the good-natured spirit of fun with which audiences have met The Room for 15 years. Stay right to the end for a heartwarming surprise.
Known for his own Wiseauesque ways, there was no guarantee Franco could make this work. How about an earnest, uproarious, totally human buddy comedy? “Haha. What a story, Mark!”
CAST: James Franco, Dave Franco, Alison Brie, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutchinson
DIRECTOR: James Franco
WRITERS: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber (screenplay), Greg Sestero, Tom Bissell (book)
SYNOPSIS: The Disaster Artist charts the burgeoning friendship of young Hollywood dreamer Greg Sestero and the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau as they set out to make The Room – a film that would last forever.