Some movies were born to be R. There's nothing that insane in this movie that is R. But considering that the movie is a biopic about the making of a very R rated movie, the film is actually pretty tame. Sure, you get a mostly nude James Franco and a lot of cursing, but it doesn't feel like there is too much that is exploitative in this one. I'm surprised. Still, a hard R. Don't forget that.
DIRECTOR: James Franco
Oh, I just got that. Like Tommy Wiseau, James Franco directed and starred in the movie about a guy who directs and stars in his own movie. Okay, Franco didn't write the script, but that whole thing is pretty meta. When the trailer for The Disaster Artist dropped, I rented The Room almost immediately. I talked about my distancing from ironic viewings in my review for The Room and I still kind of hold true to that belief. But a viewing of The Room didn't temper my excitement to see The Disaster Artist. If anything, it actually ramped it up. This movie looked bananas and it was everything I kind of hoped it would it. It answered so many questions I had about the original film that I love that it exists. I just wished that I knew that it was based on a book so I could be even more literally and fancy.
I saw this as part of a double feature on Saturday night with the wife. My wife hadn't seen The Room outside of clips I showed her. I think she would have shut it off because of how borderline pornographic that movie is. But the movie is oddly bad. There's something about old bad movies that is kind of forgivable. They are not passion projects. There is usually a limited budget and they were meant to be disposable. The real gems of ironic viewing usually are movies that people are convinced are great. These are the Mystery Science Theater episodes I really enjoy. Stuff like Time Chasers makes me lose my mind. The Room definitely falls into that category. What Franco does is provide a background into the mystery of Tommy Wiseau. This had to be somewhat of a challenge. This movie, easily, could have just been a farce of this ridiculous human being. For those not in the know, Tommy Wiseau, the subject of this biopic, is one of the most bizarre human beings alive. The movie toes that line of overtly making fun of this man and wondering what makes him tick. A lot of that is explored in Greg Sestero's book, but the movie focuses more on the relationship between Greg and the mentally unhinged Tommy. Tommy Wiseau, through Franco's portrayal and direction, is simultaneously pitiable and despicable. There is a line in there saying that Tommy had some kind of accident. I don't know if they are implying that Tommy Wiseau got Gary Busey'ed in an accident, but Wiseau's choices throughout the film are consistently bizarre.
When looking at this movie, I can't help but think about the mystery about this guy. This is part of Franco's genius. You can tell that he's a bit of an ironic fan of Wiseau. Everything I've seen of him in press junkets says that Franco got to know the real Wiseau pretty well. He's also kind of afraid of him and that is conveyed in the movie. The movie kind of falters when the accent and performance of the character becomes a bit of a novelty, but the movie then shows its real legs because the movie isn't always about being funny. For the most part, the movie is pretty hilarious throughout, but it never sacrifices its emotional core for the sake of a joke. There are a couple of scenes in there that are actually kind of terrifying. Tommy Wiseau is the reason that we all kind of clam up when we see an eccentric individual doing his thing. From his pitch perfect introduction to the film at an acting class, it shows that Wiseau dances to his own band. This is where the relatability comes in. This is a transcendentalist idea that we all champion. We have all been raised and encouraged to be individuals. (Okay, that was a blanket statement, but I'm standing by it to a certain degree.) While I would never become friends with Tommy after seeing what he does on stage, I get the character of Greg wanting to find some alpha figure in his life. There is something appealing about a person who does not care what other people think of him. But the story of Wiseau might actually be quite the opposite. Tommy Wiseau, through the course of the film, is really desperate for people to notice him and applaud him. Those people who throw caution to the wind might actually be attention grabbers. In the case of Wiseau, and this is super interesting in the film, that also makes him a bit unhinged. The thing that makes it all the more interesting is that I don't know if he is unhinged because he is mentally ill or if he is unhinged because his dreams are being mocked. It's a fascinating character study and I can't believe I'm writing any of this.
It is kind of a treat to see the Franco boys act across from each other. Most people who have seen The Room have a pretty good Tommy Wiseau impression. He's super mockable, and Franco's impression might be the best. But Franco seems to have really honed that impression to a point where he is not just parroting Tommy Wiseau, but is really acting underneath it all. I can completely see the origins of this movie being a bunch of celebrities joke-planning a Tommy Wiseau movie. Franco does his impression. Everyone laughs. He then realizes he can take it to the next step. I get this vibe because everyone is in this movie. Almost every single part in this film about nobodies who want to be celebrities is, in fact, a celebrity. This is such a cool commentary on celebrity. I know that people probably signed on when they thought the concept for the film was hilarious, but there has to be a deeper connection to Greg's perspective. I know that many films have tackled the idea of the struggling actor in Hollywood. If anything, it might be one of the more indulgent plotlines in movies. (They've all been there!) But Greg's narrative does paint him out to be kind of a saint. I'm sure the story doesn't play out that cleanly in reality, but Greg does seem very believable. Tommy does go out of his way to not only mentor Greg, but to befriend him. From Tommy's perspective, it does may a twisted amount of sense that he sees Greg's choices as a betrayal to everything that they do. Golly, the more I analyze this movie, the deeper it seems to get. Tommy's psychotic break scene is tonally the best thing that this movie might have needed. I find it so bizarre that the entire cast in that sequence is comprised of comedians. Not only are they comedians, but they are traditionally raunchy comedians. But that moment when Paul Scheer rips into Franco is just perfect. I know that Paul Scheer has a history with The Room due to his podcast history, but that sequence just rang so true. There are jokes in those scenes, but they are the least distracting jokes in history.
The one thing that my wife really questioned was Dave Franco's performance. It is a bit off, but I'm not sure what exactly is the cause of that abnormality in such a nuanced movie. Part of me thinks that since James Franco put so much detail into his portrayal of a real dude that I have to give Dave Franco the benefit of the doubt for doing the same. In fact, that might be heavy burden for Dave Franco (I have to write his whole name out considering A) His brother is in the movie so I can't just say the last name and B) just writing "Dave" seems really disrespectful) because Greg Sestero isn't exactly the caricature that Wiseau is. There isn't really a "Greg" impression that people do. Also, Greg grounds the movie. We experience Wiseau not from Wiseau's perspective, but from Greg's. Greg has to be emotionally stable while portraying the details of this real individual. The results are mixed at times, but again, that might be a Herculean task. That is an insane balance to maintain and I hate to say that Dave Franco might not be able to pull it off. I'm not sure anyone can really pull it off. I even like Dave Franco! I found myself defending him. He just seems like such a nice kid. But I also acknowledge that there's a couple of emotional missteps when it comes to portraying this character.
The Disaster Artist won't be my Oscar pick, but I really did like it. In fact, I think I might enjoy it more as just a fun film. I don't tend to rewatch a lot of Oscar nominees and I would be floored if Disaster Artist didn't get nominated. But I just enjoy this as a movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.