Wednesday 22 November 2017

Film Review: The Disaster Artist

James Franco serves up the best comedy of the year in The Disaster Artist, a film about the making of one of the worst films ever. 

2003's The Room isn’t just a bad movie; it’s the all-conquering cult leader of bad movies, complete with an ardent and insatiable following of lunatics. 

Starring, written, directed and even funded by Tommy Wiseau, The Room’s zealous fans are to this day enamoured by its myriad of unconventional quirks, which include, but are not limited to glaring continuity errors, odd storytelling choices, clunky writing and some of the most amateur performances this side of a primary school nativity.

The Disaster Artist is a film about said film, and its troubled journey to the big screen. Based on a book of the same name, which was written in part by Greg Sestero, who played Mark in The Room, the film recounts Sestero's first encounters with the enigmatic and strange Wiseau, following their efforts to crack into filmmaking and climb up the Hollywood ladder. When their fledgling careers fail to take flight, Wiseau decides to make his own film – and that's just the start of the absurd and weird tale.

The Disaster Artist is a strange movie; it's one part parody, one part biopic and one part love letter to Wiseau, weird cinema and all the forgotten also-rans of Hollywood who fall through the cracks. Somehow, all this gels into one rounded, captivating, strange and emotional package, anchored of course by James Franco's mesmerising and all-encompassing lead performance.

As well as directing, James Franco stars as Wiseau, which not only means wearing a hideous black wig that brushes his shoulders, but also requires him to annunciate, walk and mimic Wiseau's every eccentric mannerism, from his laugh and accent right down to his inability to throw a football. 

He totally disappears into the role. It's not an exaggeration to say that this is easily James Franco's best career performance to date. Better than Pineapple Express; better than 127 Hours; better than Spring Breakers. Not only does he capture the mannerisms so perfectly, he never slips. His Wiseau isn't a Borat-esque cartoon; he still feels like a living, breathing person with feelings, rather than a meme. When his audience starts to laugh and jeer at his movie, Wiseau is heartbroken. James Franco nails these emotional beats, giving us a glimpse at the human behind The Room, rather than just taking the piss, which would have been the easy way to approach this movie.

No, James Franco approaches the film with a surprisingly genuine level of sincerity, authenticity and earnestness; this isn't the Franco brothers (Dave Franco plays Sestero), Seth Rogen (who plays a script editor) and a bunch of their mates pointing and laughing at Wiseau and his cult classic. No, there is affection and something wholeheartedly genuine about it.

The prologue, which sees a host of famous faces including Kristen Bell, Adam Scott and JJ Abrams, take time out of their schedule to gush about The Room, sets the scene perfectly; this isn't mean-spirited or heckling Wiseau, it's a sonnet overflowing with affection.

The screenplay, penned by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, preserves Wiseau's eccentricities, keeps the narrative tight and ensures the focus remains firmly on his relationship with Sestero and their shared dream of making it big. Strangely enough, The Disaster Artist is an uplifting and inspiring film – you leave feeling buoyed and reinvigorated, as well as decidedly knackered from the laughter, of which there is plenty.

Fans of The Room, cult cinema and filmmaking will get so much out of this film; it's a hoot. Sitting down to watch The Disaster Artist in a cinema packed to the rafters with The Room enthusiasts and likeminded cinephiles as I did this Monday just gone was a great experience, as every in-joke, reference and homage brought the house down.

Dave Franco's performance is good, but he's overshadowed by his brother. That's to be expected, what with Wiseau being such a larger-than-life character. Rogen gets some really great comedic moments, Alison Brie crops up for a short while as a love interest for Sestero and Josh Hutcherson, weirdly enough, gets some of the heartiest laughs for simply standing on screen and smiling like a dork. You'll see what I mean. The list of celebrity cameos runs on and on and on; Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally, Sharon Stone to name just a few.

The Verdict: 9/10

James and Dave Franco, along with a gaggle of guest stars, have somehow taken the behind-the-scenes story of a beloved cult classic come internet meme and turned it into the funniest film of the year. But that's not all; The Disaster Artist works so well because it doesn't heckle its subject matter. When it needs to pivot into sincerity, it pivots into sincerity. When it needs to be absurd or silly, it achieves that too. Endearing, uplifting, respectful, unbelievably funny and meta, it works on so many different levels. A must-see for cinephiles.

The Disaster Artist is in cinemas across Australia from December 3, with limited previews available from November 30.


  1. I'm so jealous you got to see this already! I can't wait, I'm glad you loved it.

    1. It was a really early screening with lots of Room fans, so a pretty special experience :)



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