Reality Show

by REGGIE WOLTZ

The idea that art imitates life is a fairly simple concept. Artists seek to express themselves and their creativity, doing so comes as a reflection of their internal uniqueness and external environment.  Whether it’s a love song, Shakespearean tragedy, or landscape painting, art is a peek at the world through the eyes of its maker.

Movies have enormous potential in their capability to imitate life. The experience, being both visual and auditory, allows the viewer to more completely immerse themselves in the world of the filmmaker. As a result, many films are made as an escape from our real lives into a new reality with different possibilities. The popularity of superhero franchises, space operas, and animated films is an open-armed acceptance of this. While the widespread propensity to spend more time escaping reality than examining it is slightly unsettling, these movies are still tethered to real life by having characters with human qualities, just with their limitations removed.

And then we have Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, whose intention isn’t to fly you to another universe, but rather to bring you back down to Earth so hard that you’ll end up in the planet’s core.  The events of the film are essentially the continued aftermath of a rape and murder that has gone unsolved for six months. There’s no true conflict here, all villains are temporary, and the ending resolves to leave it all unresolved. In fact, the true journey of this film is the development of the characters as they live out their screen time.

Much of what makes this movie feel so genuine is its emotional impact. The character performances are beautifully entertaining and allow the movie to switch between equally effective streaks of comedy and tragedy. The tonal shifts between being light- and heavy-hearted were striking, culminating in certain scenes that hit like that of being thrown out of a second story window.

The remainder of Three Billboards’ effectiveness comes from the lives and personalities of its characters. Even extremely minor parts are given unique material from an outstanding script that also paints all of its leads in multiple dimensions. This film intentionally sacrifices having a tight focus with its themes to create the best portrayal of real life as it can. Reality is an open-ended flow of chaotic cause and effect, full of unique people experiencing joy and pain. That is also exactly what this movie is.

This point is perfectly exemplified in the film’s final moments. We get Frances McDormand’s Mildred and Sam Rockwell’s Dixon driving off to serve some sweet vigilante justice to a guy who definitely raped and murdered someone, although the crime was unrelated to what happened to Mildred’s daughter. The scene cuts after they admit their uncertainty about hurting someone and before any action is taken. The two characters are trying to give themselves a significant action to deal with their problems, but the real resolution is each of them finding someone to share those problems with.

Three Billboards is a great film because of how well it captures the essence of life. Everyone has their own pain and tribulations to go through. They come into conflict or harmony based on this, often in momentary interactions that transform each individual as time passes. The movie doesn’t seek to answer any deep questions up front, but does so between the lines. So, the ultimate question is: if art imitates life, what do we call something that virtually is life?

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.

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The Risen Place

by REGGIE WOLTZ

*SPOILERS*

When you have seen enough movies, it gets easier to tell the difference between gold and pyrite. Sure, the quality of a film is hard to define from the ground-up. Because of the bevy of base components that movies have to work with (from sensory elements like visuals and audio to more cerebral tools such as story complexity, character performance and development, and creative narrative devices), they do not always operate on the same plane. But there has to be a way to equalize these works despite their differences in material and style. One of the methods that I use to achieve this end is to judge the intentionality in the films that I watch.

Get Out is an incredibly intentional movie. It has a sense of being obsessively well thought out thanks to the ample servings of detail in each scene. The re-watchable factor is strong here; the twists in the story beg you to go back and analyze the characters in a new light that completely transforms entire portions of the film.

Perhaps the best focal point for the second time around is Allison Williams’ Rose Armitage. She is the physical embodiment of a plot twist, so all of her scenes in the first half of the film become inherently significant. One example is when she stops the policeman from looking at her boyfriend’s I.D.—she isn’t doing it to stick up for him, but rather so that there would be no trail of evidence. It is little scenes like this, with definable double meanings, that elevate the story beyond the linear and noncreative narratives of its counterparts.

The fact that this movie holds up to reexamination without creating plot holes is great, but Get Out doesn’t stop there. It doesn’t want to be watched just twice, but as many times as possible before you start to feel like you’ve entered the sunken place. What keeps you coming back for that third time is the real strength of this film, its allegorical focus and clarity.

Director Jordan Peele isn’t exactly subtle in his approach to tackling the issue of race. He sets his tone from the opening scene, in which he turns what would be an innocuous setting for many viewers, an affluent suburb, into an unsettling labyrinth where only white people are safe. It is also here that he sets up his most potent thematic element with the diegetic song, “Run Rabbit Run.”

With the overhanging discomfort that comes from the interaction between Chris (played by Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose’s family and friends, it could be hard to create an undercurrent that deals with the race more poignantly. And yet, Peele does exactly this by juxtaposing the idea that black people are nothing but wild game to the whites with Chris’s sense of guilt over his inaction with the death of his mother.

This interplay is evident in a number of scenes, the most obvious of them being when Chris empathizes with the dying deer, the surgery pre-op, and when Chris hits the family maid (Rose’s grandmother) with a car and then decides to save her. These scenes ground Chris in the reality that the Armitages see him as prey, which he then transcends by dealing with his internal problems and finding the resolve to both kill and save—proving he is more than an animal. As such, Get Out gives proper trajectories to both the theme and Chris’s character and allows itself to end with a more direct message than just “White people are f****** crazy!”

For any director, let alone a first-timer, what Peele has pulled off is remarkable. Cutting through all of the noise with a definitive point is something that few movies attempt and even fewer accomplish. Furthermore, there are so many Easter eggs and smaller motifs in the movie that a viewer will be able to pick up on new things even after having seen it three times.

I really can’t say enough about this movie. Get Out blends suspense, comedy, and horror like none other. Peele gives his actors and actresses plenty to work with and draws great performances from each of them. The story is tight and yet filled with enough detail to make you actually want to re-watch it. And while the film may not have done much to reconcile the complex relationship between blacks and whites in America, it still did the impossible: gave us a reason to like TSA agents.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.GOLD8small

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The Most Demanding Men

by REGGIE WOLTZ

Batman and Robin. Soda and popcorn.  Traffic jams and raised middle fingers. There are a lot of iconic duos out there. In the world of filmmaking, working with familiar colleagues goes a long way towards ensuring quality. High profile pairings are bound to repeat and build further hype upon each successive project. Some of the best movies in recent years have come out of tried and true relationships, such as those between Scorcese and Dicaprio, Cuaron and Lubezky, and Fincher and Sorkin. After seeing Phantom Thread, I believe it is time to anoint a new Hollywood power couple: Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Just in case you were living under a rock in 2007, Anderson and Day-Lewis had previously worked together on There Will Be Blood–one of the last decade’s best movies. Their experience and camaraderie are palpable over ten years later, albeit in a film that couldn’t be more of a departure from its predecessor. Trading the oil fields of California for the ballrooms of post-World War II London, Anderson shifts from following the journey of a disturbed tycoon to the romance of a prestigious tailor and his muse. The scope of Phantom Thread is also very narrow compared to the time-skipping saga that is There Will Be Blood, settling to show us the quiet evolution of a single relationship.

If there is one striking similarity between Anderson and Day-Lewis’s collaborations, it is the unflinching portrayals of their complex characters. Day-Lewis’s Reynolds Woodcock is at once a charismatic gentleman, tireless worker, and unsympathetic knave, depending on who he is presenting himself to. Day-Lewis is brilliant here, rotating between his character’s personalities with ease and delivering meaning with every word and facial expression. Anderson places his protagonist in situations that draw out every bit of the actor’s talents; most successfully in the scenes between Woodcock and the females in his life.

A decent amount of the entertainment value of Phantom Thread comes from watching woman after woman try and fail to earn Woodcock’s attention. Lesley Manville’s Cyril Woodcock is our guide to these interactions, constantly at her brother’s side whether in private or public. The “old so-and-so” is a fascinating character (Freud would have had a field day with the relationship between the siblings), so it is to the detriment of the film that her screen time is stifled in the film’s second half as Vicky Krieps’ Alma Elson rises to prominence. Krieps is wonderful, surprisingly matching Day-Lewis’s acting as they spend the majority of the film face-to-face.

At the outset, this film is a love story. From the first time that Elson meets Woodcock at the country café, to her experiences as his muse and protégé, and all the way down the rocky slopes of their romance, the protagonists play off of each other without sacrificing their individualities. The development of their relationship happens in abrupt moments of Woodcock’s unstoppable force meeting Elson’s immovable object. Considering that the movie is overwhelmingly concerned with two characters over its 130 minute runtime, the fact that these moments don’t feel repetitive or cumbersome is a testament to Anderson’s feel for a balanced story.

Despite the extensive interplay between the tailor and his lover, Phantom Thread is more exactly an examination of the balance between work and life in a man who is singularly driven by his vision. We are given a cross-section of Woodcock’s life before, during, and after the transition in his character that comes from having met his match. The term “phantom thread” is a reference to Victorian-era London, when seamstresses would work so arduously that they would come home after a long day and stitch clothes in their sleep. Similarly, Woodcock has no off-button—his life is so driven by his occupation that his idea of a relationship involves demanding every piece of his partner until they are the ultimate tool in his pursuits. Anderson plays with this concept subtly throughout the film until its climax redefines the theme and completes Woodcock’s character arc, all in one fell swoop.

Like the film’s main character, Phantom Thread is as demanding as it gets. Though minimalist in concept, the film is maximalist in depth. To understand the full breadth of its meaning, Paul Thomas Anderson asks the audience to pay close attention to every micro-expression and line of dialogue. Without the spectacular Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, and Lesley Manville, this would have made for a tedious and joyless love story. However, with its cast and director firing on all cylinders, the film is more delightful than a well buttered mushroom omelet.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.GOLD8small

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Mrs. Streep Goes to Washington

by REGGIE WOLTZ

In this era of movie making, with expansive franchises and retreads running amok as studios increasingly prefer sure things over more risky investments, a crucial step in getting an original film greenlit is the opening pitch. How good does a movie sound when you boil it down to one sentence? Some of the most recent Hollywood favorites have excellent pitches. Want Emma Stone to sing and dance her way to the Oscar’s podium? Sounds good. Can I interest you in Jordan Peele directing a horror movie about a black guy visiting his white girlfriend’s family? Sure, why not. How about an animated film that follows the daily lives of those little pictograms that you use in texts? Sign me up!

The Post has an inarguably better pitch than any of those. It’s a Steven Spielberg-directed drama about the Washington Post’s printing of the Pentagon Papers. The timing couldn’t be better as it arrives while the country’s political and social climates are not all that dissimilar to those of the Nixon-era United States. Oh, and it stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the king and queen of Hollywood. It’s almost like this movie was created in a lab to dominate the film awards circuit.

The thing about The Post that stands out the most is its incredible ensemble cast. Yes, the film centers around its binary star system, but the orbiting planets shine in their own way as well. Bob Odenkirk nails his role as lead journalist Ben Bagdikian–at times seeming like he is the real protagonist of this story. Bruce Greenwood does a tremendous job of emulating Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara without vilifying his character or creating undue sympathy for the man that had as much to do with the Vietnam War as any of the Presidents that he served. Matthew Rhys, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coons, Bradley Whitford, and Jesse Plemons give noticeable performances in their limited screen time. But the real unsung hero of the film, Michael Cyril Creighton, gives us the film’s best thirty seconds in his one scene as the junior reporter who gets several pages of the Pentagon Papers mysteriously dropped on his desk.

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep earn their top billings in this one. They make the most of their massive portions of The Post’s runtime and the scenes they share buzz with the chemistry of two professionals at the top of their games. The problem is that they aren’t given much to work with.

Hanks’ Ben Bradlee isn’t a human so much as he is the imagining of what a pirate running a newspaper would be like. He bursts with personality and swagger but doesn’t appear in three dimensions. For being just as vital to the plot as Streep’s Kay Graham, Bradlee is never exposed or shown in his weak moments the way that she is. And boy, do we get a lot of weak moments from Graham.

Streep’s character is the thematic linchpin of the movie, drowning the audience in her internal conflict and cultivation of an authoritative presence.  Many of her scenes amount to her pondering the same thing, over and over again. There are two concurrent conflicts in the movie, both having to do with Graham. The first is her questioning “Should I print the story even though it would hurt my relationship with McNamara?” The second is her questioning “Should I print the story even though it would possibly result in my newspaper dying and me going to jail?” If it seems like these are effectively the same question, it’s because they are. This makes it tedious for the movie to answer them one after another for the better part of two hours and makes Streep’s scenes frustrating to watch.

This weakness in storytelling is endemic to the true failure of The Post, its try-hard feminism. This movie was clearly designed to be a celebration of women, a distinction that it fails to earn the more the viewer thinks about it.

Spielberg is deft with the camera, using his frames efficiently, but the times that he does get fancy are used to accentuate the presence of a woman. Some examples include tracking shots that follow Bradlee’s daughter counting her lemonade stand proceeds, Graham moving past a picture of her father in the newsroom, and Graham moving through crowds of admiring women (one outside a room of the New York Stock Exchange, one outside the Supreme Court). Scenes centered on Streep hit us over the head with her point of view, which makes her unimpressive character all the more encumbering.

The story of The Post could be great, but the movie gets too caught up in trying to tell us that “Women are awesome!!” for that to actually happen. Instead of focusing on the courage of those who actually worked to bring the Pentagon Papers to light, it focuses on the courage of one person making a relatively easy decision. As such, it loses the dramatic appeal of having people sacrifice their lives in order to create an opportunity for the greater good to prevail (an appeal that Spotlight rode to win Best Picture at the Oscars just two years ago), in favor of telling the story of the woman who is only tasked with giving the okay to execute on that opportunity. This misappropriation not only engenders the aforementioned redundant double conflict that bogs the movie down, it creates a load of forced themes and hypocrisy.

Who is it that risked being convicted of treason to steal the original documents? Who called the shots for the team that was responsible for bringing the Pentagon Papers to light? Who did the digging in order to find the leak and gather the resources that allowed the news story to be printed? Who made the final call for all of their hard work to pay off?

I’m not saying that Kay Graham wasn’t brave in making her decision or that women don’t add much to this story. I just want to make it clear that it is a reach for a film about the printing of the Pentagon Papers to congratulate a woman as if she made it all happen. That is just not the truth of the reality and, as a result, The Post takes a great pitch and throws it in the dirt.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.GOLD8small

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MOLLY’S GAME

by REGGIE WOLTZ

Aaron Sorkin Goes All-In

*SPOILERS*

Aaron Sorkin is a master of screenwriting. Even if you don’t know his name, you probably know his work. The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs (the Michael Fassbender one) are just his last three films – the first two of which were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Ever since his work on A Few Good Men and West Wing, Sorkin’s name has been synonymous with on-page prestige. As a result, it’s only natural that a movie with his name attached would be worth keeping an eye on.

In Molly’s Game, however, it’s not your eyes that matter. Sure, there are important visuals. From the opening moments, overlaid diagrams are used to aid the viewer’s comprehension. In the movie’s poker scenes, these diagrams are especially important to helping the viewer to understand the dramatic tension without having to know the game itself.

Jessica Chastain, as the titular character, characterizes Molly between two timelines that show her progression through an eventful career as a host of high roller poker games. The most striking difference between these two Mollies is how they are represented through outfits and make-up. Chastain’s performance itself is also very eye-catching, using facial micro-expressions and powerful body language to convey meaning in every scene.

For all that the editing and acting give you to look at, Molly’s Game is much more interested in making you listen. This is what Sorkin is good at. The cerebral and quickly paced dialogue is laid on impressively, particularly in the Word Olympics scenes that Chastain and Idris Elba share. The supporting actors and actresses in the movie are also at their best. Michael Cera’s Player X, Bill Camp’s Harlan, and Chris O’Dowd’s Douglas do well to help the movie along for the final half of the movie. From a dialogue and character performance perspective, this movie really showcases Sorkin’s skills.

Narration is present throughout the movie. The surprisingly consistent use of Molly’s internal voice felt like a guided tour through the halls of her memories. Chastain gave life to the movie from scene one, and along the way her narration tied together three timelines to tell us Molly’s story. That’s no minor feat, considering that narration in movies is usually a five minute introduction and rarely heard from again.

The style of the dialogue and the use of narration are major positives in their own right, but together they destroy the balance between sound and silence. It’s not like in another movie where rampant dialogue would be washed out by a musical transition or a change of pace. This counterpoint, instead, was narration.  And all of that exposition causes a fair amount of mental fatigue by the end of the 140 minute runtime.

The cause of this seems obvious. Sorkin isn’t just writing this time, he’s directing. And whatever hold on Sorkin’s dialogue that a David Fincher, Bennett Miller, or Ridley Scott utilized to achieve a proper balance is gone. Leaving the preponderance of dialogue in a film up to Aaron Sorkin is like giving the green light to a kid in a candy store. You think that kid is going to take his time, carefully meditating on the most elegant sugar pairings before making an enlightened and refined selection? Nah, that kid’s gonna go straight for what he knows he wants and get as much of it as he can.

But there’s more. The gummi bear that broke the camel’s back comes at the end. Kevin Costner, Molly’s father whom we know by now is a psychologist with a background in Sigmund Freud’s theories, gives us “Three years of therapy in three minutes.” Not only is Sorkin interested in telling us the entire movie, he wants to go one step farther. We get the story of a vital experience from her early childhood (that manifested subconsciously because Freud) and a call back to her worst memory. As such, Aaron Sorkin has explained the movie as the ending to that movie. Aaron Sorkin just won a Triple Crown in exposition that I didn’t even know existed.

In a vacuum, the idea of a explaining everything, making literal the themes and plot of the movie, is a cool concept. It isn’t attempted very often and it definitely isn’t done well, hardly ever. But that’s because it’s a stretch, even in a movie that doesn’t use exposition as much as Molly’s Game does. Here, it feels contrived and slightly condescending. Sorkin doesn’t let the viewers figure anything out, which feels like an infringement on our rights.

All in all, Molly’s Game is still an impressive debut. Sorkin knew what he wanted to do and then executed, also getting great performances from his actors. The fault of the film is that what he wants to do is to test your hearing and attention span. This doesn’t necessarily come through upon first viewing – the material and style are great while everything is new. But on the second time around, the magic trick is over and the sleight of hand feels more like sleight of sledgehammer.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Star Wars: The Force Goes Back To Sleep

by REGGIE WOLTZ

* SPOILERS *

A short time ago in a galaxy very, very nearby…

The most divisive and controversial blockbuster in recent memory was released. Whether you are a Star Wars junkie or a casual moviegoer, chances are that you were looking forward to this one.

And why not be?

The Force Awakens was a perfect kick-off to the new trilogy — creating original characters and a bright future while rehashing enough of the 1977 original to get the bad taste of the prequels out of the fanbase’s collective mouth. In addition, 2016’s Rogue One was a gem of a standalone film and a benchmark in storytelling for the franchise.

This lineage, in addition to great critical reviews, beautiful promotional material, and having visionary director Rian Johnson (Looper, Breaking Bad) at the helm, built up a lot of hype for The Last Jedi. And while some lauded the movie and started making a case for it being the best Star Wars since Revenge of the Sith, there was a massive amount of backlash. Why exactly were so many viewers up in arms? Let’s break it down.

It is no accident that Star Wars has such a massive following. The original movie was a technical and creative achievement, capturing imaginations in a way that had never been done before. But The Last Jedi, instead of following in that tradition and continuing to push boundaries, takes the opportunities it was given and tosses them away like yesterday’s lightsaber.

Every major character that made it to the end of The Force Awakens had much to look forward to for the subsequent films. Rey and Kylo Ren, the tent poles of the new trilogy, provided new life to the tried and true Light vs Dark theme and promised to break the mold of the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader archetypes.

Finn, the Stormtrooper-turned-reluctant-rebel, presented a characterization that hadn’t been seen before. Poe Dameron, ace pilot and all-around badass, added energy and a cool factor to every scene he was in. Snoke, General Hux, and Captain Phasma promised the same menace as the old Empire characters but with the possibility for even more devastating conquest. Even the old guard, Leia and Luke Skywalker, had more stories to tell in episodes seven through nine that would deepen the complexity and richness of their iconic characters.

So what did we get from all of that potential?

Well, let’s just say that a certain Supreme Leader would be very disappointed if The Last Jedi was his apprentice. While Rey and Kylo Ren provide the most intrigue and deliver on at least some of their promise, every other character falls short in a major way. Finn is reduced to a joke machine that gets stuck in easily the worst subplot of the film and a forced romance with an unnecessary new character. Poe has his moments early on but then gets caught in a tedious collection of scenes (with yet another awful new character) that is supposed to convey development but ends up feeling like empty screen time. Snoke is downright menacing for much of the movie before being inexplicably killed off; Hux is reduced to a sniveling child; and Phasma is completely wasted after being one of the most interesting characters in The Force Awakens.

But where this film really starts losing fans is with Luke and Leia.

Luke is the most renowned ‘good guy’ in the series, and perhaps even in film history. But this incarnation sees him turn from hero of the rebellion to salty space hermit, all because his former student happened to be leaning to the dark side (which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the kid’s grandfather is Darth Vader). He spends much of his screen time going from rebuking his past life to cracking jokes with shifts in tone that are questionable at best and discombobulating at worst. Betraying an audience that is well acquainted with Luke, this movie implies massive character development but only follows it up with a handful of flashbacks and a quick turnaround in its climax. This is certainly not enough to be believable and ends up tarnishing one of the most awaited returns of a character in film history.

The problems with Leia’s character are symptomatic of an issue with this film fitting into the larger Star Wars mythos: anythinghaving to do with the Force. Leia, a character that was known to be Force-sensitive but not nearly as capable as a trained Jedi, performs the most impressive feat seen in a Star Wars movie: surviving being blown up and sucked into the vacuum of space, and then using the Force to fly back to her ship. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief on this one. I had to look around at my fellow moviegoers to make sure that I wasn’t just hallucinating. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.

While Leia’s character would go on to have meaningful scenes in the rest of the movie, it really didn’t matter to me anymore. The damage was done. This was an egregious act by the film, rewriting the rules of the Force in such a flippant way that it just felt disrespectful. The Last Jedi didn’t stop there in its reintroduction of the Force. Snoke shows never-before-seen powers, appearing nearly omnipotent before being cleaved in the most predictable manner possible. Yoda, who has been dead for decades at this point, summons actual lightning out of nowhere and now has forced us to consider if space ghosts are the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Luke projects himself across lightyears in his only redemptive moment to dodge Kylo Ren a couple of times before pathetically dying for no reason.

The best thing about the new trilogy is the continued exploration of the Star Wars universe and lore. One of the coolest moments in The Force Awakens is Kylo halting a laser blast in midair. It’s like this movie saw that and said “hold my beer” over and over again. The result is too many suspensions of disbelief, too many perceived plot holes, and way, way too much fan service.

I don’t want to sell this movie completely short. It had beautiful cinematography, excellent dialogue, and heart-pounding action. If this were not a Star Wars movie, perhaps that would have been enough to meet expectations. But that is not the case. As a result, this feels less like a canonical film and more like a two and a half hour fan-created tribute video with a massive budget.

Yes there are great moments, but without proper story elements and characterization it was just that, a loosely tied collection of moments. Many fans were expecting this to go beyond, push the limits, and give us the next great Star Wars sequel. Instead it explored all the wrong boundaries and transformed this storied franchise from an epic space opera into something we never could have expected: a hacky space comedy.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.

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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.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.

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