“The Disaster Artist,” released Dec. 1, delves deeply into the quirky backstory of “The Room,” arguably the worst movie of all time. “The Room,” described by one of its lead actors, Greg Sestero, as “a disastrous specimen of cinematic hubris,” has turned into a cult classic that has fascinated its loyal fan base since its release in 2003. In 2013, Sestero released his account of the creation of “The Room” as the memoir “The Disaster Artist.” Now the story is coming to the big screen as a laugh-out-loud comedy depicting the artistic history of the cinematic oddball Tommy Wiseau.
A comedic biopic starring James and Dave Franco, “The Disaster Artist,” based on Sestero’s eponymous memoir, provides viewers with a humorous glimpse behind the scenes of the film, and is driven by Franco’s colorful portrayal of Wiseau. “The Room” was the brainchild of Wiseau, who fully financed, wrote, directed, produced and starred in the 2003 film. An enigmatic, artistic mind, Wiseau could not achieve mainstream success and instead attempted to create his own amateur film. “The Room” has a nearly incomprehensible plot and a poorly written script, and it has grown famous for its spectacular failure.
“The Disaster Artist” starts when Wiseau and Sestero meet at acting class in San Francisco. A quiet stage presence, 19-year-old Sestero approaches Wiseau, a fearless performer, about becoming acting partners. The two move to Wiseau’s apartment in Los Angeles to pursue acting careers, and after months of rejection, Wiseau launches his own haphazard and hilarious film production with Sestero.
The primary strength of “The Disaster Artist” lies in the incredible performances of the leads, especially James Franco. Wiseau is an extremely eccentric character — he has strange mannerisms, an unidentifiable accent and is of indeterminate age — and Franco portrays him with admirable flair. In fact, Franco performs so well that Wiseau himself has admitted to being a fan of “The Disaster Artist.” Another strong appearance is Seth Rogan as Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor and uncredited director of “The Room,” as he constantly expresses confusion about the film’s legitimacy.
Additionally, the chemistry between the Franco brothers is exceptional: They successfully depict the way friendship can be simultaneously supportive and aggravating, as well as the frustrations and sacrifices that accompany artistic creation. However, one weak aspect of the film is that Wiseau’s character seems to be the butt of the joke too often. While the character’s eccentricity is laughable at times, his oddness unnecessarily overshadows his hard work and determination.
In addition to the Franco brothers’ superb acting, numerous celebrated actors, including Kristen Bell, Adam Scott and Bryan Cranston, make cameos. Wiseau himself even has a brief appearance during a scene at a Hollywood party. The combination of star power and talent make for a thoughtfully crafted and exceptionally presented film.
The film’s inherently amusing subject matter is another strong point. “The Disaster Artist” successfully leads viewers through various aspects of the creation of “The Room,” providing insight into what life was like on the set of the film and how it affected those who worked there. Although Wiseau funds the production and is fully committed to “The Room,” he is constantly met with doubt and disbelief, even from those he is paying to work on the film.
A surprisingly nuanced and poignant film about a dreadful artistic venture, “The Disaster Artist” beautifully leads viewers through the story of “The Room,” from the humble acting roots of Wiseau and Sestero to the film’s production process and final cinematic premiere. It is a true homage to the passion underlying such an artistic endeavor, even one that fails as spectacularly as “The Room.”
“This is my movie and this is my life,” Wiseau says upon presenting the film to its first audience. A cinematic masterpiece about a cinematic failure, “The Disaster Artist” tells a story that you would not believe if it were not true.