For those of you who are familiar with Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic The Room (2003), then this story of the making of it, directed by and starring James Franco as Mr. Wiseau and entitled The Disaster Artist; truly needs no introduction. Some of you less familiar may not even have a clue what on earth The Room is, but to simply put it, it is the best worst film ever made, and has gone on to be one of Hollywood’s true phenomenons. Franco, without any kind of malice towards Wiseau, only a clear appreciation for him, has brought the story of how the best worst film ever made came to be, and has created a truly funny and original awards worthy picture that’s understandably creating a lot of Oscar buzz.
With the Best Actor race in full flow as the awards season starts, a lot of the conversation has revolved around Gary Oldman’s prosthetic-heavy transformation into Winston Churchill for Darkest Hour, but right now Franco’s own prosthetic-heavy, transformative turn as Tommy Wiseau looks to be the performance to beat, just last night winning the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Leading Actor. Franco is absolutely striking as Wiseau, capturing his larger-than-life, caricature personality and mannerisms, and he absolutely nails Tommy’s clearly Eastern-European accent (despite his claim that he is an ‘All-American hero’) to the extent that if you were to situate the two of them in a darkened room it would be impossible to tell who’s who, a testament to the truly “method” nature of Franco’s performance.
Equally as impressive is the fact that Franco turned out his career-best performance whilst having all the responsibilities of directing, a feat many have achieved but not to this wholly notable extent, with Franco remaining in character whilst directing scenes; which hilariously caused confusion on set as to whether he was addressing his crew as Tommy or James. A sure fire for his 2nd career Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and certainly it would be a welcome and deserved surprise should he win, as this was a performance that felt heavily personal to Franco whilst remaining altogether affecting.
Capturing the madness
Essentially the story of how The Room was made is simple, a struggling actor named Greg Sestero, played by Franco’s younger brother Dave in another career-best performance, meets the mysterious Tommy Wiseau at an acting class and the two form an instant, brotherly like bond that leads to them moving to LA, where Tommy mysteriously has his own flat, another enigma revolving around him, as just to where all his money came from. Sick of being rejected by Hollywood, Tommy decides to write, produce, direct and star in his own self-funded movie, entitled The Room, co-starring Greg, and this is truly where the descent into madness begins.
Franco has hilariously captured the ridiculousness of the process of making The Room, from Tommy’s less-than convincing acting, forgetting his lines, and his senseless spending of around $6,000,000 to make it, including shooting on both digital and 35mm film just because he had the money to, and how he would stop at nothing to bring his wholly unique vision to the big screen. Smaller supporting performances from the likes of Seth Rogen and Josh Hutcherson to a hilarious Zac Efron cameo further capture the essence of this blissful absurdity. Despite the utterly bizarre nature of the film and Tommy’s enigmatic persona, there’s something so inherently inspiring about making a movie yourself moulded with your own vision; that Franco just translates perfectly onto the silver screen.
Technically speaking, there’s nothing overtly marvellous about The Disaster Artist, despite maybe the impressive makeup work on Franco to turn him into Wiseau, so I can’t call this a perfect film, but it is truly awards worthy. James Franco is awe-inspiring as Tommy Wiseau and should undoubtedly get a 2nd Oscar nomination, if not actually take home the gong himself, and the script writing is sharp, bizarre and spectacularly funny, and there are many periods of this film where stifling laughter is almost impossible. Although The Room may be highly regarded as the worst film ever made, The Disaster Artist never once fails to be truly inspiring, and its feel-good ending resonates wonderfully throughout the audience. If you’ve never seen The Room, this film is still utterly brilliant and will certainly make you want to go and see it, just to see a bit more of the indomitable figure that is Tommy Wiseau. The Disaster Artist is an awards worthy, riotous piece of filmmaking that truly represents the best parts of Hollywood in a time of such strife.
Words by Elliott Jones