Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Disaster Artist: Birth of a Cult Classic

When I exited the theater after watching The Disaster Artist, I felt slightly hysterical. I couldn't stop smiling and kept erupting into giggles when I remembered random scenes from the movie. So yeah, I highly recommend watching this film. End of review.

Well fine, you probably want more information. Directed by James Franco, based on the book of the same name by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, this movie is about the making of The Room, a movie that came out in 2003 and is widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. When it came out, it folded in two weeks (it only lasted in the theaters for two weeks because Tommy Wiseau, the mysterious writer-director-producer-actor of the movie, paid for it to remain in theaters so it would be eligible for Oscar consideration) and made all of $1,800 despite an alleged $6 million budget. In The Disaster Artist, James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, and what follows is a loving story of how the most bonkers film in the world got made.

Let me be clear - this is not a cruel movie. It fully recognizes what an absurd movie The Room is, and what a weird person Tommy Wiseau is, but it is crafted with such love and clear devotion to the source material that you will only feel the greatest sympathy for Tommy and the rest of the motley crew who put this insane production together. While none of them know what they're doing, they're doing it with such passion and gusto that you can't help but be swept along for the ride. James Franco's portrayal of Wiseau is pitch perfect - he has the deranged accent and speech pattern down, and I don't know what kind of wonders the makeup department did to his face or if the wig somehow pulls his face back, but he doesn't even really look like himself (apart from the occasional smile; there's no mistaking that Franco smile). He even manages to have one eye that is halfway closed, making the resemblance to Wiseau rather uncanny. 

The rest of the cast are equally perfect. Ari Graynor is wonderful as Julie/Lisa, who endures severe mortification during the infamous sex scenes, Dave Franco bumbles his way through the entire film as the blithely naive but up-for-anything Greg/Mark, and my personal favorite might be Josh Hutcherson as Philip/Denny, who echoes all of our thoughts when he asks Tommy exactly how old Denny is supposed to be (you will not get a satisfactory answer). In addition, Seth Rogen is hilarious as the hapless script supervisor, faced with the most inane script Hollywood has ever produced, while Jaclyn Weaver is charming as the elderly Carolyn/Claudette, who shows up to work every day because she is a truly dedicated actor, even if she can't get Tommy to explain anything about her character.

The scene featuring the film premiere, when the actors finally get to see what they worked on and are horrified by this bizarre movie (Ari Graynor whimpering, "is it still going on?!" echoes the sentiments of anyone who has watched The Room) is the natural highlight of the film. When the audience laughs and Tommy realizes that he has become a laughing stock yet again, there is an exceedingly sweet and supportive moment between him and Greg that turns the tide. That's the emotional beat that puts you wholly in Wiseau's corner and makes you glad that he eventually embraced the cult status that this movie went on to achieve. And right before the end credits, we see shot-for-shot remakes of some of The Room's classic scenes, which makes this whole journey exceedingly worthwhile.

A lot of people have said you don't have to watch The Room to appreciate The Disaster Artist. But I would say it would help you to truly understand the confusion the cast and crew must have felt throughout the filming of this nonsensical movie (thanks to my friend Katie who insisted I watch The Room first!). Perhaps the greatest achievement of The Disaster Artist is that it made me genuinely fond of The Room and understand why it has become such a cult favorite. I am now sorely tempted to attend a midnight screening and yell, "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!" along with a chorus of fellow moviegoers, who will never stop adoring this brilliantly awful movie. Also, if you're reading this, and your name is Mark? Oh, hi Mark!

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