This dramatisation by James Franco about the making of the cult classic The Room (2003) should only be watched after attending a midnight screening of the film it explores (the only way to watch it, in my opinion) or perhaps not at all.
You don’t need to read the credits to know it’s based on the account of actor Greg Sestero as it casts him as an innocent good guy and The Room’s writer, director, producer, star and shady character Tommy Wiseau as an abusive narcissist/psychopath. It’s hard to believe, after watching The Room, that Wiseau could be anything but self-absorbed and/or delusional but his characterisation in The Disaster Artist clearly positions him as a villain. Buffoonish but a villain nonetheless.
Beginning with Greg (Dave Franco) and Tommy (James Franco) meeting at an acting class, the two bond over a shared dream to be movie stars despite any evidence of talent. Tommy is odd and hostile when questioned about himself but as enthusiastic as a puppy when it comes to Greg and pursuing his dreams. Insisting he is from New Orleans, despite a strong eastern European accent, and that he is 19 just like Greg, although he looks 20 years older, Tommy oscillates between menacing and amiable and Greg is reluctant to aggravate him, especially once they move to LA to live in Tommy’s apartment.
Tommy it seems has plenty of money and when he and Greg struggle to get work he decides to make his own movie. He is so obviously clueless and won’t listen to anyone with real experience, which means his movie’s script is terrible, the actors aren’t great, and he overspends on everything. Tommy comes across as exceptionally untalented, erratic and prone to bullying and abuse. There is a clear indication that he is in love with Greg and, although this is never spelt out, his constant jealousy is inexplicable otherwise.
The Disaster Artist has many of ‘blink and you miss them’ star cameos – Sharon Stone as an agent, Melanie Griffith as an acting teacher, Megan Mullaly as Mrs Sestero – and some that I must’ve blinked and missed; Tommy Wiseau was there as Henry and Kristin Bell, Kevin Smith, JJ Abrams, Danny McBride, Judd Apatow, Zach Braff and the list goes on. Franco obviously has lots of friends or maybe they are all fans of the unique weirdness of The Room.
The story is engaging enough and gives a good insight into why The Room is such a cult hit and has delighted audiences for 15 years. There’s a heavy dose of incredulity that anything this bad could be made and released. It shows what money can do and perhaps the tremendous confidence of mediocre white men. Apparently costing US$6,000,000 to make, Wiseau paid for it to screen in cinemas for two weeks so that it would qualify for an Academy Award. Now that is delusion.
Overall it left me with an icky feeling that I suspect would make any future viewings of The Room less delightful. I hope it’s not all true.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.