The Dis­as­ter Artist is a good movie about mak­ing a bad movie

Waterloo Region Record - - FRONT PAGE - Katie Walsh

In 2003, a mys­te­ri­ous bill­board popped up in Los An­ge­les, with a sin­is­ter head­shot and a phone num­ber, ad­ver­tis­ing a movie called “The Room.”

Play­ing in one theatre, the ro­man­tic melo­drama writ­ten, di­rected, pro­duced by and star­ring the inim­itable Tommy Wiseau was a flop, un­til cult movie fans dis­cov­ered pos­si­bly the best worst movie ever and made it a hit. Now the story of the mak­ing of that movie is it­self a movie, “The Dis­as­ter Artist,” di­rected by and star­ring James Franco as Wiseau. And it’s en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate that this movie about a very bad movie is, in fact, very good.

“The Dis­as­ter Artist” is also very, very funny, in­ten­tion­ally so, about some­one who never in­tended to be funny, who ended up em­brac­ing the some­times lov­ing, some­times deri­sive laugh­ter di­rected toward him and his film. Wiseau is just so un­abashedly him­self, com­pletely with­out shame. In a kooky yet vul­ner­a­ble and heart­felt per­for­mance, Franco gets right at the heart of what makes Wiseau a true hero — his sheer will­ing­ness to try — and that is what makes “The Dis­as­ter Artist” work so well.

Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber adapted the script from a mem­oir about the mak­ing of “The Room” writ­ten by Wiseau’s un­likely col­lab­o­ra­tor, Greg Ses­tero, played by Dave Franco. Their script em­pha­sizes the friend­ship be­tween Greg and Tommy, a duo of dream­ers who are more alike than they might seem.

They meet in a San Fran­cisco act­ing class, where the self-ef­fac­ing and naive Greg is drawn to Tommy’s strange charisma and un­fil­tered fear­less­ness. With an ac­cent of mys­te­ri­ous prove­nance (he claims to be from New Or­leans but sounds like he’s from Tran­syl­va­nia), no dis­cernible age and seem­ingly end­less fi­nan­cial re­sources, Tommy never hes­i­tates. He just does what­ever pops into his head.

The pair make a pact to make it in Hol­ly­wood, and soon they’re crash­ing in Tommy’s L.A. pied-a-terre, get­ting agents and go­ing on au­di­tions. While Greg gains some trac­tion, ev­ery­one in L.A. wants to pi­geon­hole Tommy, with his long hair and his ac­cent, as a vil­lain, de­spite his protes­ta­tions that he’s the all-Amer­i­can hero. Down­trod­den af­ter be­ing re­jected again and again, Tommy is in­spired to make his own movie, and thus, “The Room” is born.

Much of “The Dis­as­ter Artist” takes place on the set of “The Room,” with an on­screen days-of-shoot­ing num­ber that il­lus­trates how long the pro­duc­tion stretches on, steered by Tommy’s unique, bizarre whims. The shoot scenes go from hys­ter­i­cally funny to men­ac­ing as Tommy grows in­creas­ingly un­hinged. But even if we don’t un­der­stand what or how Tommy does, we un­der­stand why — he’s bound and de­ter­mined to make this movie with his friend.

As Tommy frets over the pre­miere night re­cep­tion of his fin­ished film, which has de­volved into rau­cous laugh­ter and chant­ing at how awe­somely bad it is, Greg com­forts him in the lobby. “How many peo­ple do you think have done this?” he asks Tommy. “I dunno, a thou­sand?” he re­sponds. It’s a joke, but that in­ter­ac­tion is also the core of what this movie is about. Tommy did what so many haven’t — he said he was go­ing to make a movie and he did.

“The Dis­as­ter Artist” is a cel­e­bra­tion of sheer ef­fort and fol­low-through, a will­ing­ness to put one­self out there, fac­ing judg­ment and scorn, hop­ing al­ways for ac­cep­tance. That Tommy was em­braced, de­spite the un­ex­pected form it took, is the hap­pi­est end­ing of all, with “The Dis­as­ter Artist” the bow on this crazy, real-life Hol­ly­wood story.


Dave Franco, left, and James Franco in a scene from “The Dis­as­ter Artist.”

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