*. The first thing I have to say is that I haven’t seen The Room. Meaning I’ve never sat down and watched the whole thing all the way through. I think I have, however, seen enough of The Room not to need or want to see any more.
*. The Disaster Artist is a movie based on a book of the same name written by Greg Sestero about the making of The Room. Which means it should be unique in its subject matter and point of view. As it turns out, however, it’s a very similar film to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Is it a not uncommon story?
*. Once again we have the crazy wannabe artist (Tommy Wiseau, played by James Franco) who dares to follow his dream of becoming an auteur. Hollywood loves these guys (Franco was on track to win an Oscar before being derailed by sexual misconduct allegations), and I think they strike a chord with the broader public as well. How could you not root for such deluded goofs, how could you not want them to succeed? That said . . .
*. As with Ed Wood I found myself wanting to go along with it but after a while I realized there wasn’t enough to care about. It’s not only that these guys (Wood and Wiseau) didn’t have any particular talent, but aside from their personal quirks and oddities they’re just not that interesting on any deeper level. Their films have a limited naive charm to them, but at the end of the day they’re garbage, only entertaining for their display of incompetence.
*. This leads in to the mystery of Tommy Wiseau himself. He’s done a great job building this up, but at the end of the day do I really care where he comes from or how he got all his money? Or whether there is something more to his attraction to Greg than friendship? Again and again in interviews and on the commentary track included with the DVD he has nothing to say when he is pressed. It’s become a kind of shtick.
*. For a film based on such recent true events and a book written by one of the principal actors in those events, I was surprised when listening to the commentary at the liberties taken. Most striking was the cameo by Bryan Cranston, who offers Greg an audition for a part in Malcolm in the Middle. Apparently this never happened, and the big choice Greg had to make was between shaving his beard or being in a photo shoot. That’s quite a dramatic change.
*. In short, I liked The Disaster Artist up to a point. James Franco, like Johnny Depp portraying Ed Wood, has fun doing a real-life caricature. The appearance of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen is fitting since that’s the kind of comedy the film is aiming for. It’s basically a mockumentary with a clueless madman at the center that everyone responds to by way of stunned reaction shots.
*. The thing is, you get the joke pretty quickly and the rest of the movie’s message is trite. Follow your dreams. Don’t listen to your critics. Stand by your friends. And then maybe everything will work out in the end anyway.
*. It’s such a powerful message that it even took Ed Wood’s sad life story and turned it into something to be celebrated. Insulated from that kind of failure by his wealth, Tommy Wiseau was never in danger of coming to such a tragic end. The historical moment also saved him, as it didn’t Wood. Wood was an authentic outsider where Wiseau was more pleasingly ironic. A post-credit meeting between Wiseau and Franco still in character as Tommy is the perfect joke to end with. Somehow we’re all in on it. Whatever it is.