Room at the top
If you love all kinds of movies, and you haven’t seen The Room, your life has been incomplete.
Written, directed by and starring the legendary Tommy Wiseau, it’s the greatest bad movie ever made. This is how great its badness is: The Rifftrax (the movie-bashing bastard stepchild of Mystery Science Theater 3000) for the movie, where people yell insults at the screen as it plays, is actually annoying. You just want Mike Nelson and friends to shut up and let the pure experience of The Room wash over you. No riff is funnier than what is happening in the actual movie.
James Franco does Tommy Wiseau a cinematic honor with The Disaster Artist in much the same way Tim Burton glorified shlockmeister Ed Wood over 20 years ago. Franco directs and stars as Tommy, complete with the awesome long vampire black hair and chipmunk cheeks that comprise “the Wiseau.” He also nails the Wiseau mystery accent. (While his IMDB profile says he was born in 1955 and comes from Poland, nobody seems to really know Wiseau’s true background).
For the first time in a movie, Franco costars with brother Dave, who gets one of his best roles yet as the also legendarily bad Greg Sestero, friend to Tommy and costar in The Room. The film starts in San Francisco, with Greg struggling to remember lines in a savagely bad acting class attempt at Waiting for Godot. Strange classmate Tommy lumbers onto the stage to butcher a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, and a friendship is born. The two agree to work on scenes together, bond in their lousiness and, thanks to Wiseau’s strange and unexplained apparent wealth, move to Los Angeles to fulfill their dreams to become actors.
After a stretch of unsuccessful auditions, the pair decide to make their own movie, and this is where the film really takes off. Fans of The Room will rejoice in hilarious recreations of such iconic moments as “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” and “Oh, hi Mark!”
The supporting cast includes Franco pal Seth Rogen as cranky script supervisor Sandy, Zac Efron as the actor who portrayed the oddly named Chris R in The Room, and Ari Graynor as the actress who brought the majestic Lisa, Tommy’s onscreen sweetheart, to life. Josh Hutcherson plays the actor who would be Denny, perhaps the most unintentionally frightening character in Wiseau’s movie. Sharon Stone, Hannibal Buress, Melanie Griffith and Randall Park also appear.
The Disaster Artist—which is actually based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made co-written by Sestero—is heartwarming for multiple reasons. It’s fun to see a misfit make it, even though it’s in a roundabout sort of way, and it’s fun to see that accomplishment depicted by the Franco brothers. It’s about time these guys did something together. May it be the first of many future collaborations.
When Franco’s Wiseau watches the final cut of The Room with a rambunctious crowd that loves/hates his movie, James Franco delivers some of the best acting of his career on multiple levels. Onscreen, he’s doing a spot-on impersonation of Wiseau—odd accent, bizarre facial expressions, and horrific writhing naked ass during an exquisitely bad sex scene.
In the audience, Wiseau sheds tears as everybody around him mocks his movie. Franco succeeds in making us feel terrible for the guy.
That sadness disappears quickly, replaced by euphoria as the crowd cheers his trash masterpiece, and Wiseau embraces the notoriety. By the time the film wraps, it hits you that Franco has somehow made one of the better feel-good movies of the year.
Make sure to stay for the credits, where Franco plays his recreations of scenes from The Room next to Wiseau’s originals. The scenes sync up almost perfectly, and are so good I often found myself confused as to which was which. Wiseau himself shows up after the credits for what turns out to be the movie’s best cameo.