Looking Back at 2010s Films: The Disaster Artist (2017)

4 Oct

Brody-The-Disaster-Artist

By Tanner Smith

“Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache. Here’s to the mess we make.” -Emma Stone, “La La Land”

“You don’t want to be good. You want to be great.” -Tommy Wiseau, writer-producer-director of “The Room”

“No refunds.” -Sign outside the Laemmle Fairfax, June 27th, 2003, opening weekend of “The Room”

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films…seriously, “The Disaster Artist” isn’t on my top-20-of-2010s list? Ugh. Screw lists.

Greg Sestero, actor/co-producer for “The Room,” wrote and released a memoir about his experiences in making “The Room” with his offbeat filmmaking friend Tommy Wiseau. That book became “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.” And of course, fans of “The Room,” which may very well be “the greatest bad movie ever made,” flocked to pick up their copies as soon the book was published, because they just had to know… What really went on behind the scenes? What was the thought process behind many of these decisions? Can Greg answer these questions as well as Tommy, who seems too far out of his mind to give his own clear answers? Well, maybe–Greg is Tommy’s best friend; he’s the one who always sticks up for his weird behavior. Maybe he knows something we don’t.

I bought and read the book in December 2015, and when I heard there was going to be a film based on it, I was very excited. James Franco was going to play Tommy Wiseau (perfect casting) and the book was going to be adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who previously wrote “500 Days of Summer,” “The Spectacular Now,” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” So far, so good.

Two years later, when the film released in theaters, it didn’t disappoint. In fact, I even placed it as #2 on my best-of-2017 list. To me, it’s one of the most throughly entertaining movies of the decade.

And again, it’s not on my list?? Dammit.

This biopic is more straightforward than the book’s nonlinear, loaded storytelling, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. And I’m well aware of the things that were changed around or removed entirely (I read the book in print and listened to the audiobook, read by Greg Sestero himself). I don’t care–the film is still fun as its own thing.

Greg (played by Dave Franco) is an aspiring actor/model who just wants his time to shine…as does Tommy (James Franco), another aspiring actor from presumably another planet. Tommy invites Greg to move to LA with him so they can chase and achieve their dreams. But Tommy is too off-putting for any casting director to give a chance, and Greg is too insecure and shy. It gets to the point where Tommy decides to write his own movie for himself and Greg to co-star in. And that movie becomes…”The Room,” a Tennessee Williams-inspired drama about fear, guilt, tragedy, and misunderstanding…amidst a lot of sex and quotably weird out-of-context dialogue and the strangeness of Tommy Wiseau himself taking the lead role. And it wasn’t easy to make the film–Tommy got too demanding, continued mistreating his cast/crew, and never listened to decent advice from anyone who had something to say about his own vision. But in the end, he still made his vision come to life, which is always inspiring.

Btw, that’s only the simplification of what truly happened according to the book. If you haven’t checked it out, you should–it’s really interesting!

James Franco is 100% believable and spot-on as Tommy Wiseau. He captures his weirdness to a T, but there is also a sense of humanity to him, which makes it all the more interesting to the point where you have to ask yourself, “IS Tommy playing an act on us the whole time?” Franco was robbed of an Oscar nomination for this performance–he truly deserved one.

What’s even better about someone seeing this film without even knowing what “The Room” is or who Tommy is is just the sheer shock when they realize that this stuff actually happened in real life. They know this not just because of the prologue that features some of today’s celebrities (including J.J. Abrams, Kevin Smith, Adam Scott, Kristen Bell, among others) talking about The Room and its impact on cult culture…but because the film ends with side-by-side comparisons of actual clips from “The Room” and reenacted scenes for “The Disaster Artist!” (I showed this film to my grandma–she was also shocked that this wasn’t an act!)

Oh, and stay after the credits–there’s an interesting cameo appearance by…somebody who knows a thing or two about the true story.

The scenes in which some of “The Room’s” more popular scenes are reenacted are a ton of fun to watch. You can tell Franco and his crew have done their homework and tried to get it as close as possible. And it’s also great to see actors like Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor, Zac Efron, and Nathan Fielder play these roles of actors trying to make something out of Tommy’s poorly-written characters.

(Though, there is one thing missing that I think Franco could’ve had comedic possibilities with–the real Tommy overdubbed a lot of his dialogue, whereas the fictional Tommy had his recorded lines kept intact. Considering how unbelievably lazy the dubbing is, I think Franco could’ve had fun with it. But oh well.)

Another thing I love about this movie: Seth Rogen as script supervisor Sandy Schklair. He basically speaks for the audience in pointing just how ridiculous everything is on set of The Room. (“Oh we got a bottle now. Look out.”) And if you read the book, you know he basically was the unsung hero in terms of directing “The Room” because Tommy was completely inept in just about every way of directing, and it also didn’t help that Tommy would constantly do things his own way rather than listen to someone else’s directing. Rogen delivers some of his best work here.

And I barely even scratched the surface in presenting to you just how much I enjoy “The Disaster Artist” and why I embrace this film wholeheartedly. Much like “Ed Wood,” one of my favorite movies of all time (and also about a notoriously bad filmmaker), this is a film about passion and dreams and appreciating the thing you love to do despite how other people see it. The haters can hate all they want–these guys still made the film and it’s still popular today.

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