What if one has a dream and the means to make that dream a reality? Does it matter if the skills one might need are absent? Is the pursuit and realization of the dream all that matters?
That seems to be the central question of “The Disaster Artist.” The film centers on Tommy Wiseau, played by James Franco, and his quest to make his dream movie project, “The Room.” Based on the true story of the making of the so-called “worst film ever made,” “The Disaster Artist” is a surprisingly sweet film. What could easily have slipped into scornful parody retains a fondness and respect for Wiseau’s passion and irrational confidence in his abilities.
It should be noted that having seen “The Room” is not a requirement for enjoying “The Disaster Artist,” but watching a few clips and an interview with the real Wiseau wouldn’t hurt, if only to establish the validity of Franco’s insane verbal and physical performance.
The movie begins with aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) performing a stunningly uninspired scene from “Waiting for Godot” at acting class. As he slumps back to his seat, the teacher asks if anyone else wants to do something. Enter Wiseau, whose scene consists of a writhing, sprawling, barely coherent rendering of the “Stella” scene from “Streetcar Named Desire.” Apparently, this complete lack of abandon interests the nervous Greg and the pair form an unlikely friendship.
Tommy, who looks 20 years older, claims to be the same age as Greg. He professes to be from New Orleans, although his bizarre accent and garbled syntax seem more Eastern European. And he has money, but from where we never know.
The pair head out to Los Angeles to make it in the movies, but after continually being rebuffed Tommy decides to write his own script and make a movie.
The rest of “The Disaster Artist” is a movie about movie making — in pretty much every wrong way. Tommy hires experienced professionals but ignores most of their advice. As time passes, everyone except Tommy begins to realize what they have got themselves into.
The movie pulls no punches and Tommy’s narcissism, neediness and complete lack of social skills, including being abusive to his actress — because Alfred Hitchcock, Tommy says, was mean to his actress on “The Birds” and that was one of the best films ever made.
Tommy should be a thoroughly unlikable character, and there are times that we wonder why Greg is even friends with him, but Franco, who won a Golden Globe for his performance, does an effective job of bringing out the pathos. Here is a grown man who has child-like need to be loved. We see the desire, the work he is willing to put into the vision, and end up pulling for him. Of course, the film is going to suck. Everybody involved can see that, but at least he is trying.
There are parallels between “The Disaster Artist” and Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood,” creator of “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” another candidate for “the worst films ever made,” The latter is campier and more overtly funny, but both films find a nobility in the hero’s quest — no matter how preposterous it may seem.
“The Disaster Artist” features a gaggle of big names in small parts including Seth Rogan, Bob Odenkirk, Sharon Stone, Judd Apatow, Zac Ephron and Allison Brie, with a notable turn from Ari Graynor as the long-suffering Juliette/Lisa.
Directed by James Franco from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s screenplay of the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Sestero and Tom Bissell, the film is an hilarious, cringe-inducing, sweet and clever bromance about making things happen — for good or bad.