Released 7th December (Australia)
Seen 7th December
Directed by James Franco
Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Produced by Good Universe, New Line Cinema, Point Grey Pictures, RabbitBandini Productions, Ramona Films, RatPac-Dune Entertainment
Starring Dave Franco, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor & Allison Brie
“You’re tearing me apart Lisa!”
It’s the piece of dialogue that has become its own meme. Everyone knows it, everyone can repeat it and perform that line perfectly. Even if you haven’t seen The Room that line of dialogue is one you’ve undoubtedly heard. To tell the story of how that film came to life is an auspicious task, one not to be taken lightly because you do run the risk of just making a bad movie while trying to pay homage to one. That’s a very fine line, something that fortunately The Disaster Artist doesn’t cross, it dances on that line and revels in it.
The lead performance by James Franco might be the best of the man’s career. He’s unrecognizable as Tommy Wiseau, he embraces the persona and wears it like a second skin. It’s honestly quite confronting how he vanishes into the persona and every little move and inflection in his voice is pure Tommy. He has the hardest task of not only playing Tommy as a person but playing Tommy as an actor playing a character… it’s a weird double act that he pulls off effortlessly. If any performance is a shoe-in for the Golden Globes, it’s this one by a mile. His brother Dave plays the role of Greg Sestero and if I’m honest, I was nervous that it was just going to be the two brothers hanging out but I was surprised when Dave pulled in a pretty engaging performance, basically making Greg into Tommy’s wrangler and he does it wonderfully.
The rest of the cast is particularly amusing, it’s impressive the names they got to appear in this film just for little quick parts. The scenes where they’re on the set trying to make the movie are some of the high points in the film, especially with Jacki Weaver who managed to take the line “I definitely have breast cancer” and make it funny while also showing how confused the actor would have been. Moments where the crew are flat out questioning if this movie was going to get made or if the man making it was nuts are hilarious and give a sense of how insane this shoot had to be. There’s a palpable tension that builds with every scene with a crazy man at the helm and a crew just trying to make a film and get their big break that explodes at just the right moment.
Cinematically there is a very careful blend of shots that feel like they were trying to mimic a so-bad-its-good film style, shaky handheld shots work here when we’re talking about the making of The Room. It feels right to have lighting jump all over Franco’s face when we change angles, it fits that the first song that really hits us from the soundtrack is Never Gonna Give You Up. This movie is aware of what story it’s telling and so it adjusts its style to match that and it works, after a few minutes you just go with it and enjoy the ride.
The big thing that makes this movie work is that they don’t shy away from the central issue of just how weird Tommy Wiseau is. If anything, they lampshade it. You get told time and time again that the crew knows he’s insane, that they’re worried about getting paid, that they don’t even know where he’s from. This isn’t played as charming quirks, this is just played as a strange confusing man who somehow made a film people love. They also don’t pretend that it was always a comedy, they make it clear how much of an accident The Room was and I appreciate that.
I have got a few mild problems. The first is the opening, they open with shots of about half a dozen actors telling you why they like The Room and it just feels awkward in the worst way because it never comes up again, it’s not the actors in the film, they’re just there because I’m guessing Franco had their numbers and could get them to give him 5 minutes to talk about a movie they like. It wasn’t needed at all. What was needed was the Greg Sestero cameo that was apparently shot. I know Tommy himself has a post credit’s scene, but Greg doesn’t get to have his moment as a talent agent and I feel like they needed to give him that. Maybe it’ll be on the DVD, maybe there’s a good reason it’s not there, but it should be.
Overall though, this is a really good film that opens the door of Hollywood and lets you see the basement. It shows how bad it can get, it shows how weird it can get and it provides you with a lot of laughs, except this time they’re intentional.