Somehow, James Franco has directed an excellent film about one of the worst movies ever made
If you told us this time last year that a film both directed by and starring James Franco, with roles for his usually forgettable brother Dave and stoner comedy bud Seth Rogen, would be subject to faint murmurs of Oscars hype, we’d have told you to get outta town! (Or something equally 2016.) But this is 2017, and there’s a talking satsuma in the White House, and blah blah, so come the next Academy Awards, you wouldn’t rule it out.
The film is The Disaster Artist, a meta exploration of the making of 2003’s The Room, known in certain circles (people who like terrible films) as the Citizen Kane of bad movies. The Room’s cult following also made a midnight-screening icon of its mysterious auteur, Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, directed and entirely funded it (to the tune of $6m). This equal-parts bizarre and beguiling character is played to perfection here by James Franco, while his brother Dave plays Greg Sestero, upon whose book the film is based.
Greg is a shy and struggling young actor who, at an improv class, meets Tommy, an impulsive oddball with straggly black hair and a questionable accent. The pair strike up an incongruous friendship and move to LA to make a proper go of acting, while Wiseau dreams up the script for a movie that’s absolutely, definitely NOT based on his own life. If they can’t get a job, then he’ll make one for them. A catastrophe from the start, we see Tommy pour his soul and bank account into his passion project, while simultaneously proving to be a capricious and clueless director. Meanwhile, Greg realises his ticket to the big time is more of a seat on a rail replacement bus service.
Apparently, the elder Franco spent the entire production in character and it shows. As Wiseau he is at once strange, intriguing, vulnerable and threatening: a revelation when compared to his oft-favoured role as a smarmy slacker. Far from an exercise in mockery,
The Disaster Artist is a funny, warm and tightly-paced homage to spectacular failure and unlikely triumph; to dreaming big, even if those dreams are a bit rubbish. —
The Disaster Artist is out on 1 December