The Disaster Artist
Wiseau’s Bizarre Adventures
by REGGIE WOLTZ
For anyone who has ever made it through the entirety of The Room, first of all, congratulations. There is a special place in heaven reserved for those with the wherewithal to endure that tragic comedy of a film. Having seen it a handful of times (primarily because I enjoy sharing my pain with others), I can attest to experiencing the delirium that slowly eats your brain over its 99 minute runtime.
The existence of such a movie poses many serious and philosophical questions. Was there even a script? Is God evil for allowing this to be made? What exactly were the creators going for? But mainly: who the frig is Tommy Wiseau?
This last question is what The Disaster Artist seeks to help us answer. By channeling the presence of The Room’s auteur to an absolute T, James Franco gives us a peek behind a curtain that is unsettling, mystifying, and definitely not from New Orleans. And while the movie ends without providing satisfying results for its three essential queries (Where is he from? How old is he? Why is he so rich?), the journey that we take to get there is quite a pleasure.
Beyond the inherent mystery of the film, it is the individual performances that make The Disaster Artist stand out. James Franco deserves awards for his replication of Wiseau’s laugh alone. His brother, Dave Franco, serves as a tonic to the tall glass of absinthe that is Tommy Wiseau by creating an empathetic Greg Sestero from the opening scene. This movie would not be the same without Sestero’s overly smiley and optimistic attitude cutting the dramatic tension and allowing this to be a comedy, rather than a disturbing sort of biopic.
In fact, it is this abundance of chemistry between the two leads that creates one of the film’s only flaws. The climax of the conflict, the filming of The Room’s surrealist football tossing scene, feels jarring and sudden after much of the movie had downplayed the underlying darkness of its main characters’ relationship in order to let its absurdist humor shine. This crashing back to reality, a departure in tone and logic from the rest of the story, was also undone by the finale – which cheapens its presence even further.
Now, I’m not upset in the least that this movie leaned way more towards comedy than drama. Forcing the crew behind Pineapple Express and This is the End to create a somber film would be like Alfred Hitchcock making a musical. It would feel unnatural. Instead we get what this movie ought to be: an incredible combination of character and cringe comedy with moments of darkness that hit and disturb the audience like Wiseau’s deathly pelvic thrusts.
This comedy isn’t only derived from the Franco brothers’ portrayals. This film utilizes one-shot characters with mastery. Judd Apatow, Jerrod Carmichael, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Burress, Megan Mullally, Josh Hutcherson, and Zac Efron (and all the others I’m forgetting about) deliver hilarious moments in their limited number of scenes. Not to mention how well the most prominent supporting characters, played by Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer, mesh with the Francos’ and allow them to shine even more.
Just as The Room was not meant to be a comedy, The Disaster Artist was not meant to be a masterpiece. And yet, I haven’t had a more fun or inspiring experience in the theater in a long time.
This movie is a love letter to the art of Tommy Wiseau: part genius, part child, but an undisputed creator of his vision. It does not want us to pity him or look down upon his twisted accomplishment. We are meant to be motivated by him to open up ourselves to our craft and be the best we can be. Just as Adam Scott said in the opening to the film, “We are still talking about this movie over a decade after it came out. We aren’t talking about what won the Oscar ten years ago.” By putting himself out there, Tommy Wiseau may not have become the star that he dreamed of, but he transcended what a star could ever be.