***** out of 5
Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity
Article first published at TheReelPlace.com
Oh hai! A lot of films have vied for the title of “worst film ever made.” OK, maybe not vied for, but a lot of them are certainly deserving. There are those just trying to be bad — Sharknado — and those so inept it boggles the mind like Birdemic. Or even better, The Room. Some may hail Ed Wood as the worst director of all time, but you have to consider when his films were made and their budgets.
In the case of director/producer/writer/star Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, Wiseau makes Wood look like a true auteur. And according to James Franco’s biographical film The Disaster Artist — based on co-star Greg Sestero’s book of the same name (co-written with Tom Bissell) — at least $5 million was somehow sunk into it. Considering that amount was disclosed while still filming means there was even more to be spent. Probably the most telling aspect of all.
There’s no denying, The Room is a terrible film, but it also deserves the “praise,” cult status, and even celebration it has developed over the years. On the flip side, Franco’s The Disaster Artist is a smartly written, brilliantly directed, and hilariously acted piece of filmmaking that manages to be so surreal and authentic that it damn near feels like a documentary. The Disaster Artist is a spectacular glimpse behind the velvet curtain at just how wrong a production can go before it even starts.
It’s 1998, San Francisco, and Greg (Dave Franco) is an aspiring actor suffering through classes with no prospects. Until the day he bears witness to Tommy (Franco) literally hanging from the rafters during a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire in class. The two strike up a very unexpected friendship as Greg learns that Tommy has money coming from somewhere and an accent from nowhere. Eventually, after they move to L.A. together, Tommy gets the brilliant idea to make his own movie since no one in Hollywood will cast them.
The Disaster Artist is surreal to the extreme. It’s a film based on a book based on the production of one of the worst films ever made. What we also have is one of the year’s best films based on one of the worst films ever made. Franco pulls triple duty as director/writer/star (much like Wiseau himself) — word on the set is that he directed the film never breaking character — and puts in his best performance yet. It truly is a transformation. I know I would never want to spend time in Tommy’s skin, so thank you, Mr. Franco!
The rest of the cast are every bit as good as James. His younger brother Dave gives his all bringing a sweet naivete to Greg who just wants to become more than a bit player in one episode of Malcolm in the Middle. The rest of the Franco gang shows up with Seth Rogen stealing scenes as Sandy Schklair, the poor script supervisor who is continuously blown away with Tommy’s ineptitude. He just can never wrap his head around why they would build an alley set when there’s a literal alley right outside. It’s also pretty amazing to watch scenes from The Room reenacted with the film’s actors doing everything they can to be as bad as the original cast didn’t know they were. Prepare for lots of cameos.
If you haven’t seen The Room, see it before going into The Disaster Artist. But there’s still plenty to love if you go in blind. James as Tommy is a revelation and career milestone — as is the film itself. Considering where it all began just makes the film an even bigger accomplishment. It seems critics can be scared to declare comedies as best films of the year, but for anyone who’s ever been wanting to, here’s one of the best. The Disaster Artist is a comedy so good it’s tearing me apart!