Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

The Room is horrible,” 2G1 contributor Mikey Wood said to me. “It’s not even “so bad it’s good”. It’s terrible. I hate the attention it gets. It’s complete garbage.”

“I happen to like the film,” I replied. “For the film itself (which is bad) and everything behind it (which is great). Just remember, someone found the Venus de Milo in a trash heap. Someone’s trash is literally someone else’s treasure.”

Hmm…” Mikey thought for a moment before he replied. “No, it’s terrible.”

I have a great appreciation for bad films. I think its from growing up when I had no cable TV so I had to watch badly dubbed martial arts film and Godzilla movies. I never stopped loving bad movies. I love my Citizen Kane, The Station Agent, Goodfellas, The Godfather, Searching for Bobby Fischer, but I also love my The Room, Samurai Cop, Super Mario Bros, Birdemic, Troll 2, ThanksKilling, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and so on. I even vote yearly to select The Razzie Award winners.

Allow me to flashback for a moment. I had never heard of The Room back in 2008. None of my friends ever mentioned the film so it was not on my radar (and I’m sure it wasn’t on theirs as well). One day I picked up my weekly copy of Entertainment Weekly and read an article by Clark Collis calling The Room “The Citizen Kane of Bad Movies.” Truly a bold statement. The article mentioned all these Hollywood celebrities who loved the film but I didn’t care that they loved it. I read what Wiseau told Collis about his film and also how he perceived his movie. Tommy Wiseau, The Room’s writer/producer/director, had said his movie was the second coming of Tennessee Williams, but the article mentioned the premiere where people were laughing their asses off at a movie not meant to be a comedy. This was my type of film. It was available on DVD at that point so I finished the article, logged into Amazon, and bought my copy).

I can admit that the film can be a bit off-putting the first time you watch it, especially if you watch it alone like I did. There are some sex scenes pretty early on that are horrible and seem to last forever. I remember watching and thinking, “Damn, I’ve never ever wanted a sex scene to be over! STOP!” Wiseau, who plays the character Johnny, is having sex with his fiance Lisa (Juliette Danielle) but Wiseau the actor is literally humping her torso. You just watch the film and go, “What the fuck?!?!!?” The best part? They reuse the sex scene again later in the movie. Same sex scene. At this point I’m like, “Yeah, this is pretty brilliant.”

I told everyone I could about The Room but it wasn’t like I got ALL MY FRIENDS into it. I think by that point The Room was spreading like wildfire and the Entertainment Weekly article only added fuel to the flame. We’d have parties where we paired the film with Birdemic or sat around watching The Room with drinking rules. You marvel at the horrible English used in the film, the bad acting, and horrible sets. The more you watch the more you appreciate Tommy Wiseau’s murdering of the English language and his accent which is almost addicting. When The Room costar Greg Sestero released his book The Disaster Artist in 2013, I knew I had to read it. But when I finally acquired the book and read it, I was truly blown away by the behind-the-scenes story. Not just how the film was made but the weird friendship between Wiseau (an older European guy who dyes his hair and pretends to be young) and Sestero (a young good looking kid trying to make it as an actor). I was thrilled when they announced a movie was being made but months and months went by without a peep. A release date was set and after about eleven long months it is finally here. The Disaster Artist film has arrived.

The Disaster Artist is a truncated version of Sestero’s book which loses many great aspects in its translation from book to screen. If you watch the movie thinking you are getting to know more about Tommy Wiseau you are wrong (The Disaster Artist touches on what could be the truth about Tommy but we may never know). If you think you are going to see much of the on-set chaos that Sestero talked about in his book you are wrong. The film is not so much about The Room but about the awkward friendship between Wiseau and Sestero, though even that is quite edited down.

Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) wants to be an actor but finds that even trying to come out of his shell in Jean Shelton’s (Melanie Griffith) acting class is hard. After Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) acts out a really awkward scene in front of the class, Greg decides to ask Tommy to do a scene together. Tommy doesn’t know what to make of Greg and vice-versa, but the duo take a weird liking to each other. Tommy mentions they should move from San Francisco to Los Angeles so they can become movie stars. When Greg mentions he wouldn’t be able to afford it, Tommy notes that he has an apartment in Los Angeles already that they could live in. With that, the two are off.

Greg has meager success upon his arrival, landing legendary agent Iris Burton (Sharon Stone) while Tommy’s attempts to find anyone to even talk to him fails miserably. While Greg found landing an agent was easy, he finds booking any sort of work to be very hard. After a personal conversation with a Hollywood big shot hits Tommy deep, he considers just giving up and moving back to San Francisco. Greg makes an off the cuff comment that they should make their own movie. Tommy says it’s a good idea and suddenly starts writing day after day until he finishes his screenplay: The Room.

The film shifts to the film set where most of the actors and crew don’t get Tommy or his film, especially Director of Photography Raphael Smadja (Paul Scheer) and script supervisor Sandy Sinclair (Seth Rogen). The working conditions aren’t the best, Tommy sometimes shows up late, Tommy can’t act, and finally everyone just gives up. They just shoot what they shoot hoping for this crapfest to end. Greg and Tommy have a falling out and the movie finally finishes shooting. Months later Greg learns that the film is actually completed and a premiere is set. Things for the premiere don’t go as planned, at least for Tommy.

The script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber feels like a decent Cliff Notes version of Sestero’s book. The Wiseau character gets many great lines which are probably made better by James Franco’s performance (which I’ll touch on in a second). The film is quite funny at times but often it is funny because of Wiseau as a person. He’s a weirdo who talks with a very weird accent. The man has drive. But you don’t know how he got the money to finance the film itself. You never find out where he is from. And you never find out how old he is. Wiseau is guarded. Really he just wants to be accepted and wants to be recognized for what he thinks is a great film.

James Franco is the driving force of this film and he truly transforms into Tommy Wiseau. It is truly uncanny on how Franco became Wiseau. The speech, the look, the walk, every aspect is there. There’s been talk of Franco being nominated for every single actor award for his portrayal and I’ll say that I can see that happening. It really is Franco’s best performance which is saying something considering his career.

On the opposite side of the coin Dave Franco’s Greg Sestero was a bit bland and boring. I think Dave Franco as an actor is okay but I never felt he had the talent that his brother James has. Putting them side by side in a film more than proves this. You have James giving the performance of his life and Dave is really unable to match that intensity. It’s a shame. As for the rest of the actors they are mostly just set dressing. Seth Rogen doesn’t really have much to do except make comments about how things don’t make sense. There’s a multitude of Hollywood names in this film (Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Hannibal Buress, Jason Mantzoukas, Megan Mullally, Bryan Cranston) but they really aren’t given much to do. Scheer is quite memorable as the frustrated DP who really thinks the production is a complete joke and Zac Efron is hilarious as an over-committed crazed man playing a drug dealer in the movie.

Truly the film hinges on the performances of the Franco Brothers. James Franco knocks it out of the park with an A+ effort. I’ll put Dave Franco’s performance somewhere around the B- area. I think with a better actor in that role this film would have been fantastic. I’m going to mention Tim Elfman’s masterpiece Ed Wood, the 1994 biopic about the infamous director. That movie has a wonderful cast and it really felt like the characters in that film were so well used from Johnny Depp’s Wood to Martin Landau’s Oscar winning performance as Bela Lugosi to Sarah Jessica Parker as Wood’s put-off girlfriend to even George “The Animal” Steele playing Tor Johnson. Here we had a bio about a man and those who surrounded him. Ed Wood was spectacular. It is easy to compare the two films because they bout are about two bad directors though Burton’s Wood did a wonderful job showing the craziness that happened around him while Franco’s The Disaster Artist was more about the friendship between the two stars and less about the craziness. The friendship did happen but the truth is a bit hidden from the audience.

There was craziness on the set of The Room as The Disaster Artist book tells us how the production was a true mess. Most of that mess is not included in the film. You just get a feeling in the film that the movie cost a bit of money, it came out of Wiseau’s pocket, and it ran a little long during production. But the book’sbehind-the-scenes really tell why this production was just throwing money out the window and why this production ran so long. The real reasons are insane and should have been perfect storytelling for a film like this. There were no need to gloss over these aspects for the film as it helps the audience know just how preposterous the production really was.

If you are a Room fan who hasn’t read Sestero’s book you’ll get a ton of enjoyment out of it. If you’ve never watched The Room you may be in for a treat though I would say you’ll probably walk out of the film just wanting to go see The Room right away (or not understanding why anyone would actually want to watch it). If you love The Room and read The Disaster Artist you will probably still get a huge kick out of it, but you’ll also see, like I did, that this screenplay is continually feels like it could have gone much further. It really is the Hollywood version of the book and even though the production is rocky on screen, a huge opportunity was wasted in not showing what really happened. Not just on set but with Tommy’s businesses in San Francisco, how he actually joined SAG, Greg’s first forays into acting (including starring in a Z-rated horror film), how Sestero wasn’t even supposed to star in The Room, the exasperation and vacating of the crew, and so on. The film really just felt like a film produced so James Franco could star in a movie as Tommy Wiseau. The rest of the film could have been about whatever. Just as long as Franco got the character down.

I thought when The Disaster Artist was released I would be going to the movies maybe three times to see the film. I don’t feel the need to do so now. In fact, I may go to the theater just to see Lady Bird again. This film will always be remembered for James Franco’s stunning performance but the rest of the film is just a slightly above average look at one of the worst movies ever made (but still adored around the world).

RATING: B+
JAMES FRANCO RATING: A+

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