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The Disaster Artist

GOLDEN GLOBE WINNER! Best Actor (Musical or Comedy), James Franco

The old alchemist’s trick of turning lead into gold has nothing on The Disaster Artist, a film that masters the trickier feat of transforming trash into art.

It does so while also traversing the minefield of male bonding, both behind the camera and in front of it.

Sibling actors James and Dave Franco conspired to make this affectionate salute to The Room, a 2003 love-triangle drama set in a San Francisco townhouse that has won a cult following for its singular lack of cinematic appeal — or self-awareness, for that matter.

For the uninitiated: Produced, written, directed and also starring Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious East European who comes on like Count Dracula with a Brando complex, The Room is a movie that never should have happened. The fact that it did is testament to Wiseau’s possession of both a seemingly bottomless bank account and cojones that could make a brass monkey envious.

James Franco directs and also plays Wiseau in all his hairy, wigged-out glory; Dave Franco co-stars as Greg Sestero, the shyly smiling actor wannabe who befriended Wiseau in acting class, and who shared his dream to make it big in Hollywood, no matter what.

It would have been easy for the Franco Bros. and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, working from Sestero’s autobiography, to simply lampoon Wiseau and his film.

That’s the instinct that draws adoring hordes to midnight screenings of The Room, which in an honestly is a movie better discussed than endured — a little Wiseau goes a very long way.

The Disaster Artist instead takes the vastly more interesting approach of examining how and why The Room happened, illuminating aspects of bro culture and celebrity worship along the way as it lovingly recreates scenes from the original calamitous celluloid.

The film begins in the late 1990s when aspiring San Francisco thespian Sestero is bombing at an audition for Waiting for Godot. He’s so fearful of failure, he can barely stammer out his lines, prompting the impatient stage director to inquire why Greg wants to be an actor in the first place.

No such reprimand is required for classmate Wiseau, who launches onto the stage with a “Stell-aaa!” imitation of Marlon Brando that is breathtaking both for its daring and incompetence. There’s more of an impulse to call for security.

From here these two strange souls — one an all-American type, the other its polar opposite — bond over shared ambition and strike out for Los Angeles, there to share an apartment owned by Wiseau that he rarely uses while they trawl for acting gigs. First, though, they geek out over James Dean’s teen angst in Rebel Without a Cause, a very meta sideshow considering James Franco once played Dean in a TV biopic of the doomed 1950s actor.

What transpires upon their L.A. arrival is a bizarro twist on the sort of hicks-in-Hollywood scenario that has fuelled movie narratives since Thomas Edison and the Lumière Bros. were first casting flickering shadows upon the wall.

If prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, then the quest for stardom has to be the second oldest. Tommy and Greg get many doors slammed in their faces, but not the one to the bank vault holding Wiseau’s bountiful stash of cash, whose provenance he never bothers to explain.

They’ll use it to fund the creation of their own movie, The Room, which Wiseau is convinced will be “the greatest drama since the Tennessee Williams.”

Instead it’s become the movie that people most love to hate, but at least now we have a glimmer of knowledge as to why it all happened. Wiseau’s a man of indeterminate age but he’s timeless in his desire for attention and applause.

This base instinct goes right back to dawn of mankind, when Neanderthals were doubtless jockeying to have their mugs immortalized in cave paintings. Is it such a leap from then to the Hollywood of today?

Courtesy: Peter Howell, Toronto Star


No screenings currently scheduled.

Directed by: 
James Franco
Running Time: 
104 minutes
James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogan, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron
Screenplay by: 
Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter
Extra Info: 

Based on the book "The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made" by Greg Sestero


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