Tri­umph out of dis­as­ter

Western Mail - - FILMS -

IF Char­lie Chap­lin was cor­rect that it takes courage to make a fool of your­self, Tommy Wiseau might be the bravest fool to have walked the streets of Hol­ly­wood.

In 2003, ac­tor and film-maker Wiseau emerged from a stretched limou­sine for the world pre­miere of his in­de­pen­dently fi­nanced ro­man­tic drama, The Room.

The first-night au­di­ence howled in de­ri­sion at the wooden per­for­mances, clunky di­a­logue and in­dul­gent sex scenes.

In the in­ter­ven­ing years, the film has turned a profit thanks to late-night screen­ings that en­cour­age vo­cif­er­ous au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion, which in­cludes throw­ing plas­tic spoons at the screen in trib­ute to a rogue prop.

James Franco adopts dual roles as di­rec­tor and ac­tor for a tonguein-cheek drama­ti­sa­tion of the mak­ing of The Room, based on an award-win­ning mem­oir penned by Greg Ses­tero and Tom Bis­sell.

The Dis­as­ter Artist lov­ingly re­counts the gen­e­sis of Wiseau’s mag­num hope­less, min­ing up­roar­i­ous hu­mour from the ca­ma­raderie be­tween cast and crew as the shoot lurches from out­ra­geous mis­for­tune to catas­tro­phe.

Franco de­liv­ers a touch­ing per­for­mance as the quixotic ring­mas­ter of the cir­cus, star­ring op­po­site younger brother Dave and sis­ter-in-law Ali­son Brie, who play a young cou­ple sucked into Wiseau’s self-de­struc­tive orbit.

The film opens in 1998 San Fran­cisco, where nice guy Greg (Dave Franco) is strug­gling to find his voice in act­ing classes run by Jean Shel­ton (Me­lanie Grif­fith).

He yearns to be fearless like fel­low thesp Tommy (James Franco) – an enig­matic fig­ure of ques­tion­able age with an in­de­ci­pher­able ac­cent that sug­gests an up­bring­ing in East­ern Europe.

The two wannabes drive down the coast to Los An­ge­les where Greg snares a pretty girl­friend (Brie) and an agent (Sharon Stone).

Mean­while, Tommy’s un­con­ven­tional act­ing style elic­its a bar­rage of re­jec­tions.

“I’m not say­ing ‘maybe’. I’m say­ing ‘not in a mil­lion years’,” growls one stunned pro­ducer.

“And af­ter that?” Tommy coun­ters hope­fully.

Un­per­turbed by Hol­ly­wood’s re­luc­tance to roll out a red car­pet, Tommy and Greg make their own film, work­ing from a ram­shackle script that Tommy bashes out on his type­writer. The friends hire an ex­pe­ri­enced crew in­clud­ing script su­per­vi­sor Sandy Schk­lair (Seth Ro­gen), di­rec­tor of photography Raphael Smadja (Paul Scheer) and head of make-up Amy Von Brock (Kelly Ox­ford).

Tommy snaf­fles the de­mand­ing lead role op­po­site Greg.

Af­ter a stir­ring wel­come speech, Tommy calls “Ac­tion” for the first time and it be­comes ap­par­ent that the cap­tain of the sink­ing ship is an emo­tion­ally volatile ego­tist.

The Dis­as­ter Artist seems too out­landish to be teth­ered to fact but side-by-side com­par­i­son shots over the end cred­its re­veal the metic­u­lous at­ten­tion to de­tail in recre­ated scenes.

The two Fran­cos are a de­light­fully de­mented dou­ble-act. The el­der sib­ling flirts with a po­ten­tial Os­car nom­i­na­tion for his gung-ho em­bod­i­ment of artis­tic bravado in freefall.

Some­how, Wiseau flossed in­famy and suc­cess from the slaver­ing jaws of de­feat. His star twin­kles brightly through Franco’s lens.

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