REVIEW: The Disaster Artist

Review by Dustin Heller

I need to start this review with a disclaimer, which I have never done before.  It is imperative that you watch The Room before seeing The Disaster ArtistThe Room is hailed as “the Citizen Kane of bad films,” but there is brilliance in its awfulness.  The Disaster Artist is a great film, but it won’t mean nearly as much without having seen The Room beforehand.

As you might have guessed from the disclaimer, The Disaster Artist is the new biographical comedy-drama from director and star James Franco that pays homage to the 2003 cult classic The Room.  The film is based on the non-fiction book of the same name written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.  Sestero was one of the stars of The Room and chronicled his experiences of making the film in the book.  The Disaster Artist is a passion project for Franco who obviously loves the original film in all of its dreadful glory.

Along with directing and starring in the film, Franco brought along all of his friends to join in on the fun.  Longtime friend and collaborator Seth Rogen has a small part in the film and serves as producer.  James stars as Tommy Wiseau, while his brother Dave plays Sestero, with additional support coming from Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, and Jacki Weaver.  The Disaster Artist is rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.

The film tells the story of how Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero became friends through an acting class in San Francisco and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue their dream of acting.  Tommy is very mysterious and obviously has some mental issues, but that doesn’t stop Greg from jumping in headfirst.  After multiple failed auditions, Tommy has the idea to make his own movie which would star himself and Greg.

Not only is Tommy strange, but he is also extremely wealthy and fronts all of the money to make this movie happen.  As filming begins, everyone quickly realizes that Tommy has no idea what he’s doing, but they roll with the punches as he’s the one signing their paychecks.  Relationships are broken and feelings are hurt, but in the end, the film is a huge success for all the wrong reasons and quickly becomes a cult classic.

I’m a huge fan of James Franco and think he is an extremely talented guy, and this might just be his best work to date.  He literally transforms himself into Tommy Wiseau (he even nails that laugh!), which is no easy task.  The story is very funny on the surface, but Franco does an excellent job of offsetting that with the somberness of Wiseau’s personal issues and insecurities.  Even though everyone is laughing at the film Wiseau made, that was never his intention.  It would have been impossible to make a movie as bad as The Room if you were trying to do so.  That is the beauty of it, it is so bad because it is supposed to be good.  It was the brainchild of a disturbed and out-of-touch-with-reality writer and director who had all the means to make a “Hollywood” movie.

As great as James Franco is in the film, his brother Dave was terribly miscast as Sestero.  I’m sure it was a part that he dearly wanted, but James would have been better served to give it to someone else.  Also, you’re going to want to keep your eyes peeled for some pretty sweet cameos.  The Disaster Artist as a standalone film is very good and quite entertaining, but when you combine it with the genius of The Room, it becomes must-see material.

Grade:  B+

The Disaster Artist opens in Indianapolis on Friday, December 8