The 2003 movie "The Room" ranks high among the worst movies ever made, achieving cult status for its nonsensical story, appalling production values, and abysmal acting. So why not make a film about its writer, director and star Tommy Wiseau and his dogmatic, blinkered vision? Enter director and star James Franco who does exactly that in "The Disaster Artist."
Based on Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell's book, the story begins in July 1998 San Francisco in an acting class as Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau meet. In short order, they've moved to Tommy's apartment in Los Angeles where both pursue their star-struck dreams. As Greg's star rises, Tommy's sinks; but, a loyal friend, Greg supports Tommy in achieving "my vision," as he defines it. One extraordinary aspect of "The Disaster Artist" is its balancing act. We're never blind to the unhinged, delusional elements of Tommy's film or to his insensitive self-indulgent narcissism, though I read his bullying has been toned down. And yet Franco manages to keep Tommy both incredibly funny and sympathetic, a delicate handling of a difficult person.
Given James Franco's previous work and reputation for following his unique muse, he (dare I say logically) assumes the mantel and gives his own inspired performance as Tommy Wiseau. The fearless Franco adopts Wiseau's persona, flawlessly imitating him. The level of perfection he achieves becomes clear during the closing credits when a split screen runs several scenes from "The Room" next to those in "The Disaster Artist," showcasing the uncanny accuracy. As a bonus, at the preview screening here, viewers said the lines along with the actors, a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" type tribute that may build with exhibition.
As Greg Sestero, Dave Franco has a fresh, American boy appeal that nicely highlights the contrast between him and Tommy: open vs. guarded, honest vs. deceptive, successful vs. struggling. Other supporting cast are equally good: Jacki Weaver, Alison Brie, Bob Odenkirk, Judd Apatow, and especially Seth Rogan as the puzzled, flummoxed script supervisor of "The Room." And watch for cameos by Sestero, Wiseau, and Bryan Cranston.
Some familiarity with "The Room" certainly enhances the humor here, but "The Disaster Artist" delivers its own inspired, often hysterical comedy. Check local listings including for some late night screenings of "The Room".