Many years ago, my brother sent me a DVD of The Room for my birthday. I had heard of the 2003 Tommy Wiseau-directed film, which had become a cult favorite in Hollywood but, at the time, wasn’t available in most parts of the country. My wife and I howled throughout our first viewing. I must have watched it three times over the course of a day. A decade later, Greg Sestero, Wiseau’s friend and The Room co-star, wrote a tell-all book about the experience called The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. I read most of the book aloud to my wife on a long flight and we laughed until we cried.
Now, we have a movie about how the driven, good-looking but only semi-talented Sestero (played by Dave Franco) befriended the confident but bizarre Wiseau (played by James Franco) and made a movie so hilariously awful, it made them both cult movie legends and respected artists.
The true story at the heart of The Disaster Artist, the wonderful new comedy directed by/starring James Franco, is how an odd friendship between Sestero and Wiseau fueled their wacko passion project and propelled them from obscurity to infamy and adoration.
If you’ve never seen or even heard of The Room, you’ll still love The Disaster Artist, which stands alone but will play like a treasure trove for fans of the debut work from “Wiseau Films.” Wiseau is the greatest special effect in his movie–his long, jet-black hair, muscular physique, impossible-to-pin-down accent and most unusual manner of speaking make him seem like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strung out older brother.
With the aid of a facial prosthetic, a mostly spotless vocal impression and a great deal of soulful longing, Franco makes Wiseau deeply sympathetic and tremendously funny. Having younger brother Dave play Wiseau’s soul mate is smart casting, as the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero has a sibling-like richness that the brothers Franco utterly nail.
There’s great supporting bits from Seth Rogen (in an admirably weed-free turn), Jackie Weaver, Melanie Griffith and many celebrities playing themselves. One of the best scenes features Judd Apatow testily offering Wiseau professional advice that is somehow both cruel and extremely practical.
To say the least, Franco has made a lot of movies. In addition to lavish, studio franchise films (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Oz The Great and Powerful and Alien: Covenant) and adored art house hits (Spring Breakers, Milk and 127 Hours), he’s directed dozens of films in his spare time. He’s done lots of TV, even famously appearing on 54-episodes (so far) of General Hospital (playing himself… as a serial killer!). I can’t keep up with everything he does but it’s hard not to notice that, on occasion, he appears distracted and phones in his work. Thankfully, Franco’s performance as Wiseau is among the sharpest in his insanely prolific career.
There are some loose ends and gold nuggets of info I missed from the book: no mention is made of Sestero’s appearance in Patch Adams or Wiseau’s baffling decision to use green screen during a rooftop scene. Thankfully, this stays mostly faithful to Sestero’s jaw-dropping chronicle and recreates some priceless sequences. I could watch scenes of Franco-as-Wiseau badly directing/acting scenes of The Room all day. There isn’t much in the way of competition but this is easily the funniest movie I’ve seen all year.
Is The Room really the best bad movie ever made? Its definitely as uproarious as the other so-bad-it’s-great hall of famer, Troll 2. My pick would be the hysterical and astonishingly inept 1991 Vanilla Ice vehicle, Cool As Ice. Perhaps someday we’ll see a movie about the making of that beloved stinker and find a great actor in the role of Vanilla Ice. I suggest James Franco.