Oddly, the reason for this rather good movie is a rather bad one. The Room; a movie so bad it has achieved cult status, raises many questions in your head beyond “how the hell did this thing ever become part of the zeitgeist?” For instance: Is belief in yourself, without self-reflection (or self awareness), an asset to success or not?
The answer to these is hard to tell given the true story behind this quasi-biopic/making of movie. As director and, appropriately enough, star, James Franco (Why Him?) took the reins in this re-enactment/retelling to expose, or maybe explain, the making of the beloved train-wreck. In fact, it is so true to the events, that side-by-side re-enactments of scenes are played just before the credit roll, and the precision is uncanny. Of course writers Neustadter and Weber (the duo behind The Spectacular Now and The Fault in our Stars) had hours of documentary material and some insiders to help with recreating the events.
Also uncanny is Franco’s performance as Wiseau. It is a skin-crawlingly honest performance of the man; so genuine to its core that it is hard to watch at times. Dave Franco (Now You See Me 2), James’s brother, as Wiseau’s best friend turns in an equally powerful effort.
Much like The Room itself, you cannot seem to turn away from the story unfolding on the screen. Franco’s presentation of The Room this film lets you see it as an exposure of raw human longing and desire that Hollywood has instilled into the world culture. And though it feels like it has a fairy tale aspect to it in terms of financing and such, well, that is just part of the true history.
Alongside the Francos, there are many faces you’ll recognize in smaller roles. From Jacki Weaver (Equals) to Zac Efron (The Greatest Showman) and Alison Brie (GLOW) to Ari Gaynor (Wiener-Dog). Even Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs), Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) and Megan Mullally (Why Him?) have some good story lines.
So a moment about The Room itself. Sadly, I can honestly say it still isn’t the worst film I’ve seen. That dubious prize goes to either The FP or Highlander: The Source. But make no mistake, The Room is bad. Awful, in fact. It is full of cliches, bad porn styling, and a level of misogyny that is utterly breath taking. The Room isn’t inadvertently funny enough nor so bad that it requires the cult following it has spawned, but who can understand what drives pop culture? Seriously, seeing it once is more than enough, why do it again and again? But you don’t have to have seen The Room to appreciate Disaster Artist. You get everything you need to know on screen.
But, more importantly, you ask, is The Disaster Artist, unlike its inciting roots, a good movie? Well, it is certainly well put together and faithful to its subject in tone and presentation. It pulls you in, sometimes through pure jaw-dropping lack of belief, but it does and it doesn’t let you go. And it does it with love and respect for its subjects. It is certainly a unique story and one that has left an indelible mark on Hollywood and the culture. But it is also painful to watch, like watching a small child getting hurt learning to walk or make its way in the world. Or, worse, watching old films of yourself as a young kid in a room full of your adult friends.
So enter into this with a sense of humility and a sense of humor. And ask yourself: If you had to choose, would you pick infamy over obscurity? My question isn’t the driving choice, or even intent, of Disaster Artist, but it certainly leaves you with that question as well. But it is Weaver’s character who gets to state the driving factors behind this oddity from an industry point of view. She sums it all up in a single sentence for us and the characters around her. Though, I would say that in a broader sense it is really about humanity and the desire for a connection.
Watch this at some point. Laugh and cringe, but definitely appreciate the effort that went into this docudrama. It feels effortlessly real, which is about one of the hardest things to do on screen. And expect to see Franco nominated for his Wiseau performance; it is unforgettably spooky.