ReelBob: ‘The Disaster Artist’ ★★★½
By Bob Bloom
Surreal comes close to describing “The Disaster Artist.”
James Franco’s story about filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, his friendship with aspiring actor Greg Sestero and Wiseau’s making of his film, “The Room,” is funny, creepy and a most singular experience.
To this day, Wiseau remains a mystery. Where he is from, how he earned all his money, and even his age remains secrets that Wiseau will probably take to his grave.
And if there is one filmmaker who can readily identify with Wiseau, it is Franco. The actor-director appears to be a man who follows his own path — seemingly shunning traditional Hollywood protocol to appear in or make the kinds of movies that interest him, without any concern for the bottom line.
Wiseau, as an actor, writer, director and producer, is — to be kind — a joke. Yet, what he lacks in talent is compensated by his determination, vision and dedication.
Sure, he falls short, as scenes recreated in “The Disaster Artist” and actual footage from “The Room” that are shown at the end of the movie, attest.
The gold standard for movies about delusional directors who believed they were Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock is Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.” And like that film, Franco shares an affection for his subject. He admires Wiseau’s passion and conveys that throughout “The Disaster Artist.”
Casting his brother, Dave, as Sestero, adds to the connective tissue, the bond between Wiseau and Sestero that lies at the heart of the movie.
Dave Franco gives a most sincere performance, and working with his brother seems to have inspired him to reach new depths.
The younger Franco aptly displays Sestero’s hunger, drive and fumbling ambition for stardom. As the film progresses, you see his confidence in his abilities grow — brought to the fro by Wiseau’s haranguing and pushing.
James Franco, both in front of and behind the camera, is totally in control. As Wiseau, Franco shows the single-minded confidence the wanna-be auteur presented to the world, while offering glimpses of the private Wiseau who is hungry for recognition.
And Franco does not shy away from showing some of Wiseau’s darker and weirder moments. At times, you do feel uncomfortable in Wiseau’s presence; you feel that something is off-kilter with him, but you can’t really place your finger on what it is.
Behind the camera, Franco utilizes a straight-on approach to tell his story. And his recreations of scenes from “The Room” are spot-on.
His best scenes, though, center on the one-on-one time between Wiseau and Sestero. As the film progresses, their relationship changes from Sestero being an almost blind admirer to his questioning of Wiseau’s choices while filming “The Room” and intrusions into Sestero’s personal life.
“The Disaster Artist” is an entertaining movie, not just about filmmaking but about brotherhood — metaphorically speaking in terms of Wiseau and Sestero — and literally, in the relationship between Dave and James Franco.
What James Franco is showing in “The Disaster Artist” is not so much that Wiseau was a misguided filmmaker, but that sometimes an individual’s myopic focus in being true to only himself may not reward you with the outcome you expect.
Wiseau expected “The Room” to be his Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller masterpiece. Instead, it turned out to be more like his “Plan Nine From Outer Space.”
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
THE DISASTER ARTIST
3½ stars out of 4
(R), language, nudity, sexual content