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The Disaster Artist Review

By Steven Cohen

Room with a Point of View

Can a movie be so bad that it's actually good? It's a question film fans have debated for years. After all, art is subjective, and even if a director has entirely missed the mark from every technical aspect imaginable, that doesn't mean that the resulting misfire can't be amusing in its own right. Case in point, director/star Tommy Wiseau's 2003 cult flick, "The Room." Almost surreal in its casual disregard for the basic fundamentals and traditional rhythms of moviemaking, the incompetently made yet weirdly entertaining film has cultivated a dedicated following over the years. And now, director/star James Franco has brought the equally bizarre real-life story behind the movie's creation to the big screen with "The Disaster Artist" - proving that, at the very least, good films can definitely be made about bad movies.

Based on Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell's non-fiction book of the same name, the plot follows the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau (James Franco, "True Story") as he attempts to make an independent film called "The Room" with himself as the lead and his best friend, Greg (Dave Franco), as his co-star. And though Tommy successfully hires a full cast and crew, secures equipment, and rents out a studio, one nagging problem continues to plague the shoot day in and day out: he doesn't know what he's doing. As the pressures of directing take hold, the production starts looking more and more like a disaster in the making... but maybe that doesn't have to be such a bad thing.


When we first meet Tommy, Franco initially keeps his face out of view, dramatically building up the character's mysterious persona by framing him from behind as he takes to the stage with fearless swagger during an acting class. While anticipation grows and grows, this concealed angle helps to create a level of gravitas, setting the audience up for some kind of grand show. But when Tommy does finally unleash his special brand of drama upon the crowd, the utterly bizarre yet oddly confidant performance hilariously subverts all the build-up that came before, playfully offering a perfect introduction to this singularly peculiar man.

Is he any good? No, definitely not. In fact, his unplaceable accent, irregular speech patterns, and penchant for deranged frenzies are downright baffling. But is there still something strangely compelling and undeniably unique about his bold commitment and almost uncomfortable passion for the craft? You betcha. And it's this raw courage that first draws Greg to Tommy, as the young aspiring actor sees in Wiseau everything that he himself lacks. Their developing friendship then goes on to form the heart of the film, helping to ground the movie's ample comedy with some genuinely affecting emotion here and there as tempers run high during the making of "The Room."

The infamous films shoot itself takes up the bulk of the second act, offering a front row seat to one of the most amusingly chaotic and clueless movie sets ever put together. Frivolous spending, forgotten lines, endless takes, nonsensical scripting, terrible dialogue, discarded plotlines, uncomfortable nudity, and continuity mistake after continuity mistake plague the production from start to finish. And while most of these mishaps and conflicts are played for laughs, the filmmakers do a surprisingly good job of avoiding a mean-spirited tone.

On that note, despite the role's inherently eccentric nature, Franco makes sure to remind the audience that Tommy is a real person too. Sure, the character's inexplicable inflections and odd behavior are milked for comedy (especially early on), but as the story progresses, Franco reveals more layers, flaws, and vulnerabilities, turning a performance that could have just come across as an outlandish caricature into something real. Always very weird, but still real.

By focusing on the creation of one of contemporary cinema's most beloved "so bad it's good" movies, "The Disaster Artist" weaves a potently funny and bizarrely heartwarming story about dreams, determination, creativity, and friendship. Though the movie could have easily crossed the line into purely mocking its subjects, Franco and company maintain an underlying empathy for the film's characters, offering key breaks from the comedy that force viewers to question what they've been chuckling at all along, allowing the film and Wiseau himself to ultimately channel sarcastic laughter into genuine love.

And as fans of "The Room" know all too well, "If everyone love each other, the world would be a better place to live in."

What did you think?

Movie title The Disaster Artist
Release year 2017
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary This behind the scenes story of the making of so-bad-it's-good classic "The Room" is a funny, surprisingly empathetic tale of creativity, determination, friendship, and dreams.
View all articles by Steven Cohen
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