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12/12/17

THE DISASTER ARTIST - REVIEW


Loosely based on Greg Sestero's accounts on the making of The Room, The Disaster Artist follows Greg (Dave Franco) as he meets strange yet brave actor Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) before they travel to Los Angeles to pursue their dream of becoming big Hollywood stars.

From the trailers, it wasn't clear what this movie would be: a typical comedy celebrating the beautiful awfulness of The Room or a semi-serious biography of Wiseau. James Franco, who also directs the film, attempts both and the first half of the film, which focuses on Greg and Tommy's odd, if surprisingly sweet friendship, is actually pretty effective. James Franco makes a terrific Tommy Wiseau, nailing his unique mannerisms and accent to a tee while keeping the character's mystery intact as we never find out his age, origins or the source of his apparent wealth in a recurring joke. Dave Franco's Greg Sestero is a naive, wide-eyed dreamer who sees Tommy's lack of fear when performing as inspiring and you actually buy that these two would become friends. This relationship is the heart and soul of the film and when it focuses on that, it's genuinely good.

Then there's The Room itself and, along with the introduction of Seth Rogen, this is when The Disaster Artist ceases to be the amusing but honest story of Greg and Tommy and becomes a selection of frankly unconvincing recreations of scenes from the original stinker with some awkward behind-the-scenes conflicts peppered here and there. This is when the casting really stands out as uneven: Franco's excellent performance as Tommy Wiseau is somewhat tainted by having him be surrounded by actors who really don't look or sound like their counterparts. Dave Franco is saddled with one of the worst fake beards in movie history, Josh Hutcherson doesn't make much sense as Danny and Seth Rogen's jokey comments throughout are redundant since we all know why The Room is funny and bad and we hardly need characters telling us why over and over.

This is a film of two halves that desperately tries to have its cake and eat it too by being both a mainstream Apatow-style comedy poking fun at Wiseau/The Room and a reasonable character study about two well-meaning guys who take part in a disastrous production but somehow come out on top, like a kind of low key, less joyful, clever and funny version of The Producers. There are some laughs in the film and some moments that ring true like Tommy Wiseau reading a play out loud in a San Francisco cafĂ© but once it attempts to tackle the obvious it becomes little more than a clumsy parody. The film ends by showing us scenes from The Room side by side with their recreations and it's a confounding watch since those clearly don't match and, in fact, the latter look much more artificial and than the original. You're also made to wait for all the credits to roll before you finally catch a glimpse of the real Tommy Wiseau in an anti-climactic cameo you wish had happened sooner.

It's easy to imagine a much better film than The Disaster Artist doing to the source material justice. As it stands, there is a great movie in there about Greg and Tommy but it's wrapped in such poor packaging that it quickly falls apart. It's an entertaining enough watch but sadly not the new Ed Wood it aspired to be, not even close.

What a story, huh.

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