“The Disaster Artist” Anything But a Disaster
by Israel Gomez
“The Disaster Artist,” directed by and starring James Franco as mysterious filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, perfectly captures the absurdity and authenticity in the creation of “The Room,” a 2003 indie film often regarded as the worst movie ever made.
Set in California during the late 1990s, “The Disaster Artist” follows the friendship between actors Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) and Tommy, as they set out to create “The Room.” The drama, written, directed, produced by, and starring Tommy, is pretty bad. It is hard to understand what is happening sometimes, and even harder to imagine how a film like this was made in the first place. However, that confusion has led “The Room” to large success as a cult film, as fans have come to love trying to understand the absurdity of the film and its creator.
Where “The Disaster Artist” finds its strength is in its ability to tell Tommy’s story in an electric, yet authentic way. The passion underlying Tommy and Greg’s desire to become famous actors becomes clear from the beginning of the film. Their story resonates with anyone who has had to struggle and work hard to make their dreams a reality. “The Disaster Artist” does a fantastic job commenting on the reality of trying to make it big in Hollywood. Dave Franco’s performance as the timid and feeble Greg in the beginning of the film is charmingly contrasted with James Franco’s strangely confident Tommy, making for a quirky chemistry between the two and hilarious moments.
Their ambition keeps you rooting for the characters, even as Tommy begins to become unhinged during the making of his film in the second act. While Tommy’s stubbornness and poor decision making is painful for the audience to endure, Franco brilliantly shows how important it was for Tommy to stay true to his vision. Watching Tommy shoot the film is like watching someone paint a terrible picture while describing it as their masterpiece. It’s funny to watch, but also somewhat sobering.
“The Disaster Artist” doesn’t try to glamorize the creative process and never refrains from showing the ways Tommy’s swollen ego creates conflict. A particularly stand-out moment comes when Greg manages to land a role on an episode of “Malcolm in the Middle,” because of his beard. Tommy becomes insistent that Greg shave his beard so that they can stay on schedule. This is just one of the instances of Tommy’s control-freak complex, and also highlights the pressure artists can feel trying to perfect their work.
During the second act, Seth Rogen arrives in the role of Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor to “The Room.” He plays a hilarious role for the audience throughout the filming of the movie scenes, ironically commenting on how ridiculous the project has become. For example, one moment in “The Room” has Tommy’s character, Johnny, meeting his friend Mark, played by Greg, on the top of his roof. According to Greg’s memoirs, it took 32 takes to get Tommy to say one line. It becomes hilariously cringey to watch as Schklair and the rest of the production team suffer Tommy’s inability to say his line: “It’s not true! I did not hit her! It’s b******t! I did not. Oh, hi, Mark.”
The comedy of the film begins to wane as the reality of the state of Tommy’s project sets in during the third act. This is where the film proves that it holds up not only as a comedy, but also as a drama, with a serious commentary on failure in the entertainment industry. The heartbreaking revelation that creeps onto Tommy’s face as he realizes people think his work is poor is truly heartbreaking. Most people can relate to the disappointment of seeing their hard work unappreciated, even if they didn’t waste $6 million in the process like he did.
However, Tommy’s perseverance and belief in his project ultimately pays off (though maybe not monetarily, at first) as “The Room” goes on to gain a cult following as a comedy completely unaware of its own humor. Fans of “The Room” will appreciate the various nods to scenes from the 2003 film scattered throughout “The Disaster Artist.” Tommy Wiseau’s mythical status is also maintained in the film; it's never made clear where he’s from, how he got his money, or even his age. “The Disaster Artist” makes one thing clear, though: sometimes all you need is passion to make your dreams come true. That and a lot of sketchy money.