‘Artist’

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Franco) asks to prac­tice act­ing with him af­ter class, Tommy’s world changes.

Tommy doesn’t have a fil­ter, he isn’t held back by so­ci­etal norms, nor does he pos­sess any sort of self-aware­ness. That makes him a wild card, but he’s ul­ti­mately harm­less and thrilled by his new friend­ship. When Greg men­tions want­ing to visit the site of James Dean’s death, Tommy sees no rea­son they shouldn’t go right that sec­ond, de­spite the site be­ing 300 miles away. He’s pure id, and Franco plays him as the ul­ti­mate dreamer who doesn’t re­al­ize it takes more than just dreams to make it big.

At the site of Dean’s crash, Tommy and Greg make a pact to move to Los An­ge­les and be­come fa­mous actors. (Wiseau opts for a pinky swear, il­lus­trat­ing his earnest­ness and in­no­cence.) On the way home, Tommy and Greg lis­ten to Rick Ast­ley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and for Tommy, the song’s cho­rus — “never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down” — be­comes more than a re­frain. It’s a bond.

They move to L.A. and stay at Tommy’s apart­ment — again, how he’s able to af­ford an apart­ment in Los An­ge­les that he doesn’t live in only deep­ens the mys­tery sur­round­ing him — and af­ter strik­ing out af­ter sev­eral months of au­di­tions, Tommy de­cides to take his ca­reer into his own hands. He writes “The Room,” a com­i­cally in­ept drama about a doomed relationship that acts as a thin metaphor for Wiseau’s feel­ings about the world (Tommy is the hero, ev­ery­one else is the vil­lain), fi­nances it him­self and casts him­self as the lead. He hires a cast and crew (Seth Ro­gen plays a script su­per­vi­sor, Josh Hutch­er­son, Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver and Ari Graynor play the actors in the doomed movie-within-the-movie) and he gets Greg to play Mark, Tommy’s back­stab­bing best friend.

The bulk of “The Dis­as­ter Artist” takes place on the set of “The Room,” as the cast and crew mem­bers openly ques­tion what it is they’ve got­ten them­selves into. Franco, as Wiseau, con­ducts him­self like a know-it-all vir­tu­oso, but he can’t get through the sim­plest of scenes with­out trip­ping over his di­a­logue. He’s all hubris mixed with to­tal in­com­pe­tence, which is how “The Room” be­came so uniquely bad.

Franco is a riot as Wiseau, but he’s not sim­ply pok­ing fun at the enig­matic char­ac­ter. He’s dig­ging into the na­ture of am­bi­tion and shed­ding light on the magic of moviemak­ing, and the in­tox­i­cat­ing al­lure of the big screen. “The Dis­as­ter Artist” is an Amer­i­can story, about our love af­fair with the movies and celebrity, and about those who will do any­thing to achieve their big screen dreams.

As a di­rec­tor (Franco has di­rected more than a dozen films), Franco has a keen sense of sto­ry­telling, and frames “The Dis­as­ter Artist” with ap­pre­ci­a­tion for “The Room,” open­ing with a host of fa­mous faces talk­ing about the film and clos­ing with recre­ations of key scenes paired side-by-side with the orig­i­nals.

So what could have been a goof be­comes some­thing much deeper, and much more rich. “The Dis­as­ter Artist” is a lov­ing, fas­ci­nat­ing trib­ute to one of the most bum­bling movies ever made, and is in awe of its sub­ject the way it would be if it was tak­ing on one of the best movies ever made. Which, you get the pic­ture, is how Franco thinks about “The Room.”

Warner Bros.

Char­lyne Yi, left, Kelly Ox­ford, Seth Ro­gen, Paul Scheer and Dave Franco star in “The Dis­as­ter Artist.”

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