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