I’m not sure which movie I saw the Disaster Artist trailer at for the first time. It doesn’t really matter. What I do remember is that it was buried… maybe three or four trailers deep. But the original trailer opens perfectly: James Franco, doing his best Tommy Wiseau impression from the most iconic scene, in arguably the worst movie ever made, The Room. I keep a list of movie trailers in a note on my phone so that I remember what to look into more when I get home from the theater. When the trailer came on, I remember saying “Oh fuck yes…” and that’s exactly what I wrote as my note next to the title. It was enough. I expected this to be bad… a passion project for the Franco brothers, to do something that no one in their right minds would care about. A biopic about a man that no one in their right mind would care about. I didn’t care. I was all in from the jump. I was going to watch this no matter what. If it was 104 minutes of Franco doing a ridiculous Wiseau impression… so be it.
And… yeah, that’s what it was.
But somehow it was so much more as well.
First a word about The Room. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It is almost certainly the worst film ever produced. And I say that as someone who has seen both Manos: The Hands of Fate and Flesh Gordon Meets The Cosmic Cheerleaders (and no, that “E” in Flesh ain’t a typo. I’ve also seen the original Flesh Gordon, a far superior film to the sequel… which is not hard). You see, there’s a certain charm to a bad movie. When you’re the kind of person who tends to overanalyze every single tidbit of every film you watch (read, when you’re an English/Lit/Culture major… you know… me), there’s something nice about being able to just turn that off for a bit. It’s nice to just shut down your brain and enjoy something mindless. Not all of them are great, I just mentioned a couple that I hate. But to take a cult classic that I’m sure will piss everyone off. I hate the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I understand why people like it. It’s more about the experience… it’s about the mob culture that makes it into something more than it is. It’s not my scene, so I don’t care… and to watch the movie alone, on it’s own merits… alone… well, it’s just not very fun. The Room is more than that. Objectively, it’s worse than Rocky Horror. It’s worse than either Flesh Gordon. It’s worse than Manos. But it’s special in that it is honest. It has a purity about it. It is the perfect mixture of badness that just somehow makes it massively enjoyable. It is… charmingly bad.
And the Disaster Artist is the movie of how that came to be.
I’ve talked about biopics a couple times recently. I’ve talked about how they important it is to view them as stories and not as reporting. They are not documentaries. To be truly successful, it needs to work like any other fictional film. It needs to have a theme that it pursues and explores and a story that works for it. The extent to which you can explore the real life events is secondary. The Disaster Artist nails this. Perhaps this is made possible because Wiseau is such an unbelievable character in real life. He simply cannot exist. James Franco somehow convinces you that he does. He makes you feel for what is effectively a crazy man. Raving lunatic though he may be — abusive as he is to all of those around him — the film forces you to identify with him… to want him to succeed. It is a story of passion. It is a story about following your dreams, no matter how much is stacked against you. It is a story of devotion to both your art and your friends.
And yes, I know that sounds corny. It sounds ridiculous. It doesn’t matter. It just … somehow… works.
Is it accurate? Who knows. It’s certainly unbelievable… which almost makes me believe that it happened more than anything else. It just doesn’t seem to matter. As pointless, chaotic and non-sensical as The Room is, this is the exact opposite. In fact, the relationships that this movie portrays are everything that Wiseau seemed to want The Room to be. And while the original film fails in every possible way, this manages to succeed, and miraculously maintains it’s charm
Do you need to see the original film in order to enjoy this? Not really. The story os so uplifting and heart warming that I think it works even if you don’t know its a true story. In fact, it might work better, because while watching it, there are just so many times when you’ll be forced to say to yourself “this can’t be real.” But if you have seen the original, I think it adds something. There is so much painstaking attention to detail, trying to recreate shots and timing and character quirks that on a metatextual level, the film just becomes hilarious.
And if you’re a fan of The Room, will The Disaster Artist answer any questions for you? Yes. Just not the ones you’ve always had. You still aren’t going to have any idea what the original movie is about or where all of the plot holes are supposed to go. You’re not going to understand who Tommy Wiseau is or how the hell he managed to get this movie made. But what the movie does is convince you that maybe those questions aren’t important after all. The movie answers the question of “why this movie matters.”
And besides, do you really want to know where Wiseau came from? Isn’t it better to just assume that he was dropped down onto this planet form the heavens? Yeah. I thought so.
Oh hi, Mark.
★★★½☆+? (3.5 out of 5 stars–and yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. Plus a doggie that you didn’t notice before)