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The Disaster Artist

| December 1, 2017

I remember in January 2013 when, one day before school, I saw a video that included clips from some low-budget movie. I was absolutely sure that it all—the acting, the music, the dialogue, the camera going out of focus—was all fake. However, I was only 16 years old and a junior in high school, and my teenage ignorance led me to be incorrect. Of course that movie was actually real, and it was The Room. Soon afterwards, I witnessed this form of pure cinema in its entirety, absolutely floored by the ways in which the movie was horrible in just the right ways. I then showed it to my parents, my sisters, and my friends before I showed it to the film club that I founded in high school—we ended up watching it two years in a row, alongside classics like The Shining and Psycho. All of these movies are similar in that they are equally fascinating.

There’s a theological argument that the universe can exist even without a higher power because throughout the infinite ways in which nature could randomly assemble itself, the perfect combination and layout of elements will happen by chance. The movie equivalent of a universe that happened to exist by chance is The Room, something so singular and subversively crafted akin to an art film. I’m not the only person that thinks this; thankfully there are hoards of others that have a love for a movie that, despite being an unprecedented disaster, brings upon more happiness than a majority of other films that have ever existed. And that’s inspirational to me. It’s clear that it’s also inspirational to those behind The Disaster Artist, a film based on the book by The Room co-star Greg Sestero about meeting star/writer/director/producer/executive producer Tommy Wiseau and the movie that happened to come out of such a bizarre, alien person.

Here, Tommy (played by James Franco, who also directed and produced this) is first shown in a San Francisco acting class in 1998, bursting at the seams with enough passion to match Christ. He’s berated and glared on by his classmates, one of whom is Greg (played here by Dave Franco). Greg is wonderstruck by Tommy’s confidence, and the two forge a friendship as they support one another while trying to make it into Hollywood. After rejection upon rejection, they settle upon making their own movie called The Room, an independent production brought to fruition by Tommy’s seemingly limitless supply of money. As the cast and crew (played by Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, and more) is assembled, the production from hell treks on, fueled a majority of the time by Tommy’s passion and Greg’s commitment to this person who just so happened to become his best friend and unlikely muse.

There’s something to be said about movies about movies and the meta quality of them. As I wrote recently in my review of 78/52, documentaries about movies tend to leave me cold because of a sense of self-indulgence that makes the overall movie impenetrable to others. Narrative films about movies, though, provide those involved to prove their love for the art itself, which is something that The Disaster Artist pulls off with glee. The script from Scott Neudtadter and Michael H. Weber (The Spectacular Now) is quick from the beginning, condensing a five-year span into 105 by engulfing the audience in the whirlwind of idiocy and showmanship that Tommy imparts upon others, an enigma that essentially demands attention in wildly varying degrees of morality and amiability. However, it understands (as well as one can) the psychology of him: his need for companionship; his love of his and others’ art; his crushing need for approval from those around him.

He truly is a pitiful person, but one whose ambition and lack of inhibitions are inspiring, save for when they aren’t problematic. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing the horrible ways that he treats his cast and crew, and the moments in question are spaced out enough to be as frustrating as when a close friend does something stupid enough to induce second-hand guilt. At the center of all of this is a stellar performance from James Franco, which is more than simply being a spot-on recreation of Wiseau’s quirks. The insecurities are visible behind the bravado in ways similar to Franco’s work in Spring Breakers, again demonstrating his talent at grounding what could easily become a caricature. It’s easily the strongest aspect of The Disaster Artist and easily one of—if not the best—performances of 2017 so far. The supporting cast, which pretty much consists of half of Hollywood but never feels like an excuse to include the filmmakers’ friends in bit roles, both helps ground the movie and weave in differing tones of comedy. They also all do fantastic jobs replicating scenes of The Room, namely with Graynor’s delivery and inflections just like those of real-life Room actress Juliette Danielle.

There are aspects of The Disaster Artist that leave a bit to be desired, namely in terms of the film’s lack of visual flair and a few instances of unintentionally choppy editing. The script also rushes the resolution in comparison to how true events unfolded, compacting several months into one night. Despite that, it’s the pure energy of it all that keeps The Disaster Artist firing on all cylinders as both a standalone story and a love letter to those involved in The Room and those that insist on seeing it dozens of times with other cinema weirdos. We see the absurdity and we understand the emotion behind it—emotions are more important than backstory anyways. Enjoying something is in some ways more important than if it’s good, which is the key reason that the creations of people like Tommy can flourish in their own sort of critic-proof limbo. Either way, The Disaster Artist is not only enjoyable; it’s also very, very good, hilarious, thoroughly sympathetic, and above all, fun. Ahahaha.

About the Author:

Senior year film student at Columbia College Chicago, Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener, and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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