The Golden Globe nominated film “The Disaster Artist” shines with thematic brilliance, vibrant characters and a plot riddled with charming idiosyncrasies that explores the story behind “The Room,” known as one of the worst movies of all time.
“The Disaster Artist” follows the relationship between Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) as they create “The Room,” an infamously terrible movie from 2003 known for its plot holes and awful acting. Wiseau produced, directed, wrote and starred in the film. Despite the initial negative reaction to the absurdity and poor quality of “The Room,” it has since become a cult classic with regular midnight screenings.
The plot of the initial film follows a banker named Johnny and his betrayal by his fiance Lisa as she cheats on him with his best friend, Mark. This eventually culminates in Johnny committing suicide. Wiseau plays Johnny and casts Sestero as Mark.
Much to the delight of devoted fans of the original film, “The Disaster Artist” humorously addresses some of the odd details and unexplained plot holes present in “The Room,” such as the unexplored plot-line of Lisa’s mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer. While these scenes are funnier for those who have already seen “The Room,” they remain sufficiently compelling for those who are unfamiliar with Wiseau’s film.
James Franco’s near perfect portrayal of the enigmatic Wiseau (down to his greasy hair and accent) alongside his brother’s role as Sestero makes for an enjoyable and overall humorous film. Wiseau’s eccentricity sets audience’s expectations for a more lighthearted movie, and “The Disaster Artist” delivers; even so, the performance of the two main actors successfully illuminates a tense relationship and Wiseau’s embittered struggle against the world that is suggested to have inspired the plot of “The Room.”
Despite these successes, the film falters early on with Sestero’s eagerness to follow Wiseau’s vaguely inspirational but mostly cliché advice. While there’s admittedly some thrill in traveling to Hollywood to jumpstart your acting career, Sestero’s starry-eyed behavior and hastily-developed attachment to a near stranger makes his character difficult to take seriously.
As the film progresses, there is some redemption for Sestero, who becomes more skeptical as production for “The Room” continues. The character initially characterized by his lack of judgment steadily grows apart from Wiseau and matures, finally gaining some perspective on the potentially negative reception of the developing movie.
The subtle push and pull factors that draw the two friends apart develops a convincing depiction of the strain on their relationship. Well-written arguments in scenes of conflict make the tension between the pair increasingly palpable, and their tumultuous friendship is further developed by both Sestero’s growing desire to leave “The Room” behind.
Although “The Disaster Artist” does not add clarity to the mystery of Wiseau’s background, his sense of distress is more understandable as the film follows his rejection by every facet of Hollywood. The movie jumps between Sestero and Wiseau, displaying how Hollywood takes to the former much more readily than the latter. As Sestero lands bigger and bigger roles, he distances himself from Wiseau, who perceives this as a betrayal of their friendship and declares that “everybody betray me.”
As the cast members themselves speculate, “The Room” seems somewhat autobiographical in nature. In the overarching plot, Lisa’s actress suggests Lisa’s betrayal of Johnny in the film parallels the universe’s rejection of Wiseau. To the audience of “The Disaster Artist” and Sestero, it resembles Wiseau’s sense of betrayal as Sestero prioritizes his own career over the making of “The Room.” Wiseau puts it best in his own words at the end of the premiere of “The Room,” where he simply states, “This is my movie. This is my life.”
For all of the emotional potency of “The Disaster Artist”, the film is weakened by a lack of thoughtful transitions. Although the cuts and skips in the storyline don’t impair audiences’ understanding of the movie, the somewhat disjointed nature of the film neglects the potential of “The Disaster Artist” to be of both narrative and thematic ingenuity.
The film has a somewhat redeeming conclusion as Sestero reassures Wiseau, bridging the divide between the friends. The ending is bittersweet; the audience of “The Room” interpret and enjoy Wiseau’s work as a comedic piece and catapult him to a fame different than what he imagined. Despite the implied triumph of the scene, the juxtaposition between Wiseau’s genuine passion for his movie and its reception as a comedy make audiences conflicted as to how to feel about Wiseau’s success. While the ambiguity of such a moment isn’t necessarily satisfying, the complexity of the scene allows for reflection after the film’s conclusion.
Despite some missteps, “The Disaster Artist” manages to deliver emotional performances, successfully balancing tension and humor to craft an enjoyable and genuine examination of the figures behind “The Room.”