Monday, December 11, 2017

[Review] The Disaster Artist

"Is it just me, or is this kinda bad?"

Ah, Tommy Wiseau's The Room -- it's been hailed as the best worst movie of all time, reaching cult status and provoking conversational setpieces. To this day, it has frequent midnight showings in theaters across the world, cementing its spot in cinematic history -- so much so that the all-over-the-place James Franco has now made a movie about the making of the movie. It's fittingly called The Disaster Artist, and it's genuinely hysterical.

Franco plays Tommy Wiseau -- when we first meet him he's shouting and climbing up walls during an acting class. That's where he sparks up a complicated friendship with an aspiring star named Greg (Dave Franco), and the two head out to Hollywood. From there, the film dives into story behind The Room -- from script, to tumultuous production, to head-scratching red carpet premiere.

The important thing to note about The Disaster Artist is that it isn't a parody or a spoof -- it's a passionately realized portrait, serving as a fascinating look into the weird world of Wiseau, as well as an amusing behind-the-scenes tribute to the infamous disasterpiece. It strikes a balance between surprisingly somber and relentlessly comical. In fact, it's very very funny. I hooted. I hollered. And it's well-crafted enough to the point where people can probably enjoy it without having seen the material that inspired it. But I'll be real with you -- it is indeed best if you have seen The Room, or at least clips of its most iconic scenes.

A big part of why The Disaster Artist works so well is James Franco's pitch-perfect and deeply dedicated performance as Tommy Wiseau. It's more than just a good impression. He portrays him as earnest, ambitious, shameless, bizarre, mysterious (no one actually knows where he's from, how old he is, how he funded the movie, or what the heck is going on with his accent), oblivious, unintentionally hilarious, sympathetic, and villainous all at once. The supporting cast is solid too, including the likes of Alison Brie, Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer, Nathan Fielder, Hannibal Buress, Jason Mantzoukas, Jacki Weaver, and more. I'll keep the cameos a secret.

What could've been a one-note romp becomes something much more substantial as it espouses themes about dreams, the unconventional and independent spirit, artistic merit, failure and success, and director's intent vs audience reaction (Are they laughing with you or at you?). It also further examines how The Room is the ultimate recipe for an accidental phenomenon, why people have latched onto something so uniquely bad, and why it's achieved such a lasting legacy. One thing's for sure -- The Disaster Artist wouldn't exist without it.

* 8.5/10 *

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