I’ve been looking forward to The Disaster Artist since before the book was published. I thought that the opportunity to get a glimpse into Tommy Wiseau’s unique mind would be incredible.
I was cautious about how the movie adaptation would turn out. I wasn’t sure Seth Rogan was the kind of filmmaker the movie was looking for, or James Franco for that matter. I couldn’t quite imagine James Franco as Tommy Wiseau.
Tommy Wiseau is the kind of character you wouldn’t believe if he wasn’t a real person. Some people don’t quite believe in him. It would take a phenomenal actor to recreate such a distinct personality. I wasn’t sure if James Franco would manage it. It didn’t help that Tommy Wiseau has a noticeably broader bone structure than James Franco.
I also wasn’t sure how I felt about Dave Franco as Greg Sestero. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. There was nothing overtly bad about his performance, but I spent the whole film knowing I was watching Dave Franco and not Greg Sestero. Particularly in the beginning of the film, when Dave Franco in his early 30s was playing a 19-year-old Greg Sestero.
I came around to Dave Franco a little when he had the familiar haircut of Mark in The Room, which I’ve not often seen Greg Sestero without. But by the end of the film, Sestero is supposed to still be around 25 and Dave Franco is, well, still 32.
All of my reservations about James Franco as Tommy Wiseau went out of the window almost immediately. He has been nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role at the 24th Screen Actors Guild Awards and he absolutely deserves it.
He has nailed Tommy Wiseau’s distinct accent. He even has his mannerisms down, from the way he leans back to look at people to the way he flips his hair out of his face. It was such a perfect performance and I never could have seen it coming. Two hours of make up every day made a far more convincing Tommy Wiseau than I ever would’ve thought James Franco’s face was capable of.
Part of me feels like the only reason I’m still not sure about Dave Franco as Greg Sestero (aside from the fact that the height difference between the two is swapped) is because of how brilliantly James Franco portrayed Tommy Wiseau.
The story of The Disaster Artist is a sweet, hopeful one with a solid theme of friendship at its core. It kind of twists the friendship trope because one of the main characters is an enigma who happens to be inexplicably wealthy and wildly unpredictable. But it has all the key markers of a friendship story, revolving around two men who genuinely care about each other, despite their (sometimes borderline abusive) flaws.
It is genuinely heartwarming to see the way that Sestero and Wiseau supported and encouraged each other in the early days of their careers. It is more emotional still to see the way that The Room both drove them apart and brought them back together.
At points, I wanted more for Greg than the legacy that The Room had given him. I was sad that he had to give up the part in Malcolm in the Middle. I was glad that he was getting work on stage after he parted ways with Tommy Wiseau. I wanted him to get a big break and go on to be a real movie star, just like he had always dreamed.
Greg Sestero comes across as the kind of person that you want to succeed. Ambitious yet humble, friendly and hardworking and generally kind.
I hope he’s happy with The Disaster Artist, both book and film, and with doing panels at midnight screenings of The Room. I’m looking forward to seeing how his reunion with Tommy Wiseau continues in Best F(r)iends.
Around the friendship plot, a good chunk of the movie is devoted to showcasing what The Room was like behind the scenes. It makes it abundantly clear that Tommy Wiseau did not know very much about how to make a movie.
He refused to provide water and air conditioning on set, to the extent that one of his actors passed out. He had his own private toilet installed that no one else was allowed to use. He showed up consistently late. He wasted money on so many things – on equipment he bought that he should have rented, on sets that were identical to the street outside – and yet still, for a reason that remains inexplicable, he decorated every home interior set with framed photographs of spoons.
Wiseau is much more relatable than I thought he would be, especially given there are scenes when he manhandles his actors, storms around naked, wastes everyone’s time and acts like abusing actors is how to become a great director.
For all the brutal honesty in these scenes, James Franco still brings across the vulnerable part of Tommy Wiseau that passionately wants to create art with his best friend. Even when his behaviour is as bad as it can get, you understand that he’s afraid that he’s going to lose all of that. And it’s touching.
More than anything, this movie is funny.
All the ridiculous decisions that Tommy Wiseau made are presented honestly. Nothing feels exaggerated, but it still makes you belly laugh out loud in a theatre full of strangers.
I love, to the extent that I feel like I could happily watch the real time footage, the afternoon spent filming take after take after take of the infamous rooftop scene, with Tommy Wiseau bursting out of the stairwell and yelling about how he did not hit her, he did not. Oh, hi, Mark.
The movie concludes with a little update on how Greg and Tommy are doing now, followed by side by side comparisons of scenes from The Room with their Disaster Artist counterparts.
These last clips before the credits made it clear just how brilliant a job all the actors did recreating something so bizarre, completely straight-faced and professional. Here, again, James Franco really shines.
I am so, so impressed with this movie. It has surpassed almost every expectation I had for it. It is honest and fair and funny and heartwarming and invites you into the mysteries of The Room without spoiling the magic of them.