James Franco Paints Funny and Sympathetic Portrait of Tommy Wiseau in ‘The Disaster Artist’
While countless of craptastic movies have been produced during the over 100 years the film industry in Hollywood has been in existence, few have made an impact quite like “The Room,” the 2003 disasterpiece that is notable for its lackluster production values, subpar acting and inconsistent plot. In “The Disaster Artist,” none other than the ubiquitous James Franco directs and stars in this film that brings to life the funny and sad story behind the movie and the man behind it. Franco stars as Tommy Wiseau, the enigmatic and egocentric actor and auteur, while his younger brother Dave Franco co-stars as Greg Sestero, the all-American aspiring actor who tags along for this wild ride.
Based on Sestero’s 2013 memoir “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made,” the story begins in an acting class in 1998 San Francisco attended by both Tommy and Greg. While neither of them are particularly talented, Tommy exhibits a passion that eludes Greg, a former model. Greg approaches Tommy about doing a scene together, and it’s not long before the young man finds himself packing up and moving to Los Angeles with his new friend, despite the protests of his level-headed mother (Megan Mullally). It doesn’t help that Tommy is a rather shadowy figure who refuses to answer questions about his age, origins and how he affords his rather comfortable lifestyle. Predictably, Hollywood doesn’t exactly give these newcomers a warm welcome, although Greg’s youth and good looks open some doors, while Tommy’s career is a nonstarter. That is, until Greg gives him the brilliant idea to make their own film.
Also motivating Tommy is the brutal feedback he receives from acting teachers and Hollywood power players. Franco portrays him as a compelling and complex figure, and despite his having delusions of grandeur, one cannot help but feel for Tommy when an acting teacher (Brett Gelman) tells him he was made to play villain roles (Tommy sees himself as an all-American guy, despite his Eastern European accent and long, vampire-like black hair), or admire him for his determination after a big-shot producer (Judd Apatow) he accosts in an upscale restaurant tells him it isn’t going to happen for him in a million years. “After that?” Is his reply.
“The Disaster Artist” really gets going once the production on “The Room” begins, as Franco has recruited a talented cast of players to play these small roles as the cast and crew. Standouts include Seth Rogen as the script supervisor who is left stunned when his check from the amateurish Tommy clears, Zac Efron as an actor who gives his all to his role as a punk drug dealer, and Jacki Weaver as a mature actress who proclaims that despite the horrendous shooting conditions on “The Room” (in one of his more villainous moments, Tommy shows up four hours late to set, leaving the cast and crew to wait around with no water or air condition), the worst day on a movie set is better than the best day anywhere else. Dave Franco’s real-life wife Alison Brie rounds out the cast as Amber, Greg’s sweet and sensible girlfriend who serves as his anchor to reality, or at least attempts to.
At the end of it all, “The Disaster Artist” contains an important message about staying true to oneself and one’s vision, as Tommy can be viewed as a dedicated artist who refuses to compromise. While his relationship with Greg isn’t exactly the healthiest at times, one cannot argue that their friendship and the way they support each other is inspiring to see in a town that is known for its cynicism and superficiality.
“The Disaster Artist” opens Dec. 1 in select theaters, Dec. 8 nationwide.