Movies about movies are hardly new, but The Disaster Artist is something special. Much of this stems from its obedience to and sheer love of the source material, a memoir by Greg Sestero about the making of The Room. For the uninitiated, The Room is a tragic story about betrayal, lust and friendship. It also happens to be the greatest bad film ever made. This might sound strange, but Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 ‘disasterpiece’ has popularized the so-bad-it’s-good genre, with sold out screenings of the cult favourite being shown around the world. This is the basis for James Franco’s comedy-drama. It follows the earnest attempt by Wiseau (James Franco) and Sestero (Dave Franco) to create “a real Hollywood movie” and become real stars.
James Franco boasts a phenomenal performance, capturing the essence of Wiseau (a man whose entire persona is bafflingly wooden and lacking in self-awareness) perfectly whilst subtly conveying his vulnerability. Between all this, Franco’s delivery makes each line funny and, much like endless viewings of The Room, never stops being hilarious. Dave Franco has the difficult job of playing the straight man to Wiseau’s eccentric character and he succeeds whilst also showing great compassion and naïveté. Together the Franco brothers are electric onscreen, convincingly portraying two dreamers drunk on their ambition (though Tommy’s completely hammered).
Franco’s direction remains character-focused throughout: the actors are predominantly framed in mid-range, and Brandon Trost’s handheld cinematography captures the behind-the-scenes feel. Indeed, many scenes are long takes where the camera swings back and forth, like Birdman on speed. Neustadter and Weber’s script is razor sharp, and the exchanges between the characters never feel forced or clunky. Being aware of The Room and its idiosyncrasies isn’t a necessity to enjoy The Disaster Artist, but if you are, it could be the most fun you’ll have at the cinema in 2017.
The Disaster Artist is in select theatres 1 December and nationwide 6 December.