Posted by: themoviecheese | December 21, 2017

‘The Disaster Artist’ review by Tom

 

The Disaster Artist reviewed by Tom

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I’ve loved The Room since I first watched it in 2004. Yes, loved. For me, The Room is one of the ultimate film “experiences”. It’s definitely not a good film, lets get that out of the way. At the same time, how can anything that elicits so much fun in a single viewing possibly be called “bad”? Simply put, The Room makes you question why you watch certain films. If a friend approaches you and says “Have you seen Birdemic? It’s the worst horror film ever, you gotta see it!” – you have to question why they are imploring you to watch it, especially if the film is as bad as they are claiming. More importantly, you have to question why you suddenly feel a need to watch it. If somebody said to you “Don’t eat at this restaurant, it’s fucking horrible!” you wouldn’t eat there. So why do we feel a need to learn exactly why a film is claimed to be bad? For me, The Room is the perfect answer to this question.

With that in mind, I really tried…I really fucking tried to not let my bias get in the way of my critical judgement of James Franco’s ultimate The Room tribute The Disaster Artist. I tried my best not to completely fall in love with the damn thing. But The Disaster Artist is a real triumph in every sense, even if you despise The Room and Tommy Wiseau. Hell, even if you’ve never seen The Room, it still makes for a fascinating look into the mind of one of Hollywood’s most eccentric creatures.

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Just as Tommy Wiseau wrote, produced, directed and starred in the Magnus opus that is The Room; here James Franco writes, produces and directs himself starring as Tommy Wiseau. His performance is every direction of perfect – absolutely nailing the accent, body mannerisms and the evasive personality that Wiseau has become so popular for. The Room is clearly a massive passion of Franco’s and there are several moments where you simply forget that it’s him on screen, having to constantly remind yourself that it’s not just Wiseau playing himself. James’ brother Dave Franco is given the much less complex portrayal of Greg Sestero – Wiseau’s partner in crime, and the author of the book on which the film is based. Despite Sestero not being as interesting a character as Wiseau, Dave Franco does also give the role his all, with the bizarre relationship that Wiseau and Sestero have making up the bulk of the narrative. The supporting cast are equally as great, with Seth Rogen as script supervisor Sandy Schklair proving he’d truly studied the ins and outs of Schklair’s various problems on the set of the film. The real Sandy Schklair has always claimed to be The Room’s true director and that he tried his very best to clean up after Wiseau at almost every turn in an attempt to turn the film into something somewhat coherent. Simply put, the aspects of The Room that do make sense are probably thanks to Schklair.

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Beginning at the very moment that Tommy and Greg met one another, The Disaster Artist isn’t necessarily a biopic, but more a buddy film. Greg sees something in Tommy – a fearless sense of determination. He clearly has no actual acting talent, or much of any talent for that matter, but that doesn’t stop him from pushing forward. Greg quickly realises that there’s something not quite right about Tommy. The fact that he owns not only a flashy Mercedes Benz, but also an apartment in both central San Francisco and Los Angeles sends sparks of concern through Greg, but he brushes it off as he realises Tommy is his best shot at breaking into the Los Angeles acting circuit. As their plan seems to be moving slowly, they decide between them to make their own film, and so Tommy gets to work on his first ever screenplay, The Room.

The real-life characters are brilliantly written; all having a sense of realism about them to contrast the Alien-like personality of Tommy Wiseau. One film critic once said of The Room: “It’s like a movie made by an alien, who has never seen a movie, but has had movies thoroughly explained to him” – the moments of The Disaster Artist that focus on the making of The Room echo this statement perfectly. Franco’s Wiseau constantly makes decisions that make no sense to the average person. Even if you have absolutely no handle on how films are conventionally made, you will be constantly scratching your head at the various film making “ideas” he comes up with, mostly with hilarious results. Deciding to out right buy every single piece of equipment rather than rent, refusing to offer bottles of free water for the cast and crew – these are just some of the things that Wiseau, for what ever reason, insisted on. The Franco’s are joined by an army of cameos as well, from Sharon Stone to Judd Apatow. The best cameo comes in the form of Zack Efron starring as Dan Janjigian (the “actor” who plays the gun wielding Chris-R in The Room). The one scene he features in is one of the funniest in the film and perfectly portrays Dan’s/Chris’ raw monstrosity.

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We all know that Tommy Wiseau is a secretive man. Since The Room released in 2003, his fans worldwide have asked the same questions: where was he born? How old is he? How did he fund a $6million movie out of his own pocket? That’s right – The Room cost an estimated six million dollars to produce. This is mostly due to the film having no affiliation with any other production company, other than the producers Wiseau himself had hired, meaning there was nobody to fund the film; again, other than Wiseau himself. He also opted to buy all the film making equipment rather than rent. There was also the staggering amount that Wiseau spent on marketing for the film – including having a billboard/poster erected in central Los Angeles, and paying to have it stay there for five whole years. The Disaster Artist does an excellent job of attempting to address the question of where all this money comes from. Notice I said “address”, because the film doesn’t actually answer the question, nor does it skim over it. Franco’s script cleverly alludes to these points without giving us a concrete answer. Excellent scenes of Rogen’s character attempting to cash a cheque given to him by Wiseau, only to be met with shock when the cheque actually successfully clears. Likewise, the subjects of both Wiseau’s age and place of birth are also handled with the same level of respect.

That level of respect resonates throughout the entire film. Franco isn’t here to mock Wiseau, and that becomes very clear quite early on. He clearly has a high amount of adoration for both The Room and Wiseau. When it comes to recreating full scenes from The Room with his Disaster Artist cast, Franco’s attention to detail is astounding. Set recreation, costume design and character-specific mannerisms are all absolutely on point.

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In Conclusion:
I first watched The Room in 2004 in a cinema full of people who had no clue what they were about to watch. Nowadays, if you are lucky to catch The Room in a cinema, there is a huge amount of audience participation akin to a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. There was nothing like that back in 2004 though. Back then, the screenings were largely silent. Audiences of people sat in complete disbelief at the sheer mess that was unfolding on screen. I’m not ashamed to say that The Disaster Artist was an emotional ride for me. By the final moments, I was literally fighting back the tears. Some would say that’s due to the connection I have with The Room, having endured one of the UK’s first ever screenings all those years ago. But I would say that anyone with a shred of cinema integrity will feel the same emotion. The Disaster Artist isn’t a film about a weird, eccentric film maker who didn’t have a clue what he was doing. Well, I guess it is. But it’s also about a man who desired a level of respect, a man who fought to achieve his goal of making a film that audiences could enjoy. Regardless of whether Tommy always intended for The Room to be an ironical comedy as he claims, if his goal was to merely entertain his audience then he certainly succeeded. Like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and triumphant “film about a film” that pays homage to its controversial subject without ever actually mocking it, bolstered by a pin-sharp perfect performance from James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. “Oh hi, Mark!”

Rating: 9/10

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