Movie Review: ‘The Disaster Artist’


Director: James Franco

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Alison Brie, Seth Rogen

Plot: Aspiring actor Greg Sestero meets the very odd Tommy Wiseau at acting class and is taken by his passion in spite of his limited talent. The two strike up a friendship and Greg winds up starring in Tommy’s auteur project The Room.

Review: This film has been doing well – making profit, getting high ratings and winning James Franco awards for his portrayal of Hollywood weirdo Tommy Wiseau. Given the source material and the reputation is must be plenty of fun. But it’s only…OK.

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We’re going to assume that you’re familiar with The Room, Tommy Wiseau’s awful, confusing and hypnotic mess of a movie, because The Disaster Artist certainly does. It banks very heavily on the fact that you’re familiar with the cult flick and will find jokes about it funny. A few years ago Greg Sestero responded to frequent questions about the movie and his experience making it by writing a book entitled ‘The Disaster Artist’. It’s very funny and worth checking out. James Franco grabbed the rights and adapted it to the screen.

Wiseau is one of modern cinema’s great mysteries. To this day we still don’t know who he really is, where he came from and how he funded this multi-million dollar production out of his own pocket. There’s stories about a car accident that left a lasting impact plus an emotional break-up, but he’s still surrounded by a shroud of confusion. James Franco plays this lead role in addition to producing and directing. Although he won a Golden Globe for the performance, we don’t think it was deserved. It’s less a performance and more an impersonation akin to the best Tommy Wiseau reenactment by your mates.

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The whole project feels more like a re-enactment rather than a film. It doesn’t feel as though there’s been much thought put into it as a narrative or an insight. Key relationships disappear in the third act and many characters are lazily introduced through dialogue just so they’re around to deliver a single line later in the piece. In fact, it’s less a re-enactment and some friends just mucking around. This perception is heightened by the fact that Franco has forgone the traditional method of auditioning and casting the best people for the roles and just cast anyone who happened to be in his house that day. He plays Tommy, his brother Dave Franco plays Greg Sestero, Dave Franco’s wife plays Greg Sestero’s girlfriend, their friend Seth Rogan plays the director of The Room…it’s like they’re afraid to work with someone who might disagree with them. It could be a case of The Coen Brothers or Edgar Wright who have a group of regular collaborators they cast in a variety of different roles, but in this case only few of them are attempting anything other than their usual routines. Seth Rogan is certainly only playing Seth Rogan. It’s funny seeing some cameos like Bryan Cranston playing himself and ‘How Did This Get Made’ stars Jason Mantzoukas and Paul Scheer filling out minor roles, but it only adds to the sense that the whole project is just Franco and mates mucking around.

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Gaining some insight into this bizarre cult sensation is interesting and packed with hilarious moments, and Sestero’s original novel supplies plenty of these moments for the movie to utilise, but the switch to the cinema screen doesn’t add anything to it. The Disaster Artist seeks to capitalise of a global ‘in-joke’ rather than do something original or interesting. You’d be much better of reading the book. This feels like a half-assed project.

Rating: SIX out of TEN

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