Film Reviews

The Disaster Artist review: ‘James Franco is truly exceptional in the role of Tommy Wiseau’

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The movie industry is littered with dreamers hoping that one day they will be part of a film that will catapult them to stardom. One such pair of dreamers were Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau. The pair moved to Los Angeles with the dream of making in big in movies, but after a series of knock-backs they resigned themselves to the fact that it would never happen. Then they decided to do something crazy, they’d make their own film. That film was The Room, a film that is infamous as the best worst movie ever made. Costing over $6 million to create, mainly due to Tommy’s insistence to film in digital and on film simultaneously, The Room is a mess. The plot is completely nonsensical, the dialogue terrible, the acting wooden, and the sex scenes are overlong and anything but erotic. Yet despite all this, it has gained a cult status and is beloved by many all around the globe. Sestero, who produced and starred in it, wrote a book on the production, The Disaster Artist, which has now been transformed for the screen by none other than James Franco.

Franco directs and stars as the eccentric Tommy Wiseau with his brother Dave Franco taking on the part of Greg Sestero. We first meet the duo during an acting class. Greg wants desperately to be an actor, but hasn’t quite got the confidence to fully commit to his roles; his classmate Tommy has no such inhibitions and energetically throws himself into a rendition of A Streetcar Named Desire. Spurred on by some critical feedback from his teacher, Greg asks Tommy for help and the two form an unlikely friendship. Bonded by a mutual admiration of the late James Dean, the two enter into a pact to make their dreams come true, and race off to Hollywood. When success isn’t forthcoming, pair have the idea to make their film, funded by Tommy and his ridiculous and highly secret wealth. It soon becomes clear however, that Tommy, who appoints himself director and star, doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. As he struggles to bring his vision to the screen, cracks start to appear in his friendship with Greg. Will they even be speaking come opening night?

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Tommy Wiseau, a genuine international man of mystery, is the type of character that actors are crying out to play, he’s a strange blend of eccentric, ego, and vulnerability. James Franco doesn’t squander this opportunity and is truly exceptional in the role of Tommy Wiseau. The actor / director has clearly been studying his subject intensively and fully channels Wiseau for the entire time that he is on screen. He nails the voice and mannerisms to perfection, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s actually James Franco and not Tommy. Billed as a comedy, The Disaster Artist is side-splittingly funny, but also has a real heart and emotional depth to it. Franco manages to make Tommy much more than just a joke. He humanises the role, and at times you’ll feel bad for laughing at him, and may even find yourself tearing up once or twice.

Dave Franco has a harder time with Greg Sestero, Sestero being the quieter (and some would agree) ‘normal’ person. He still manages to put in a good turn, but other than an unfortunate faux facial hair piece, he doesn’t have that much to tie his performance to. There is of course great chemistry between the pair, obviously due to them being real-life siblings and having known each other for all of Dave’s life. There’s a casual ease between our leads and it’s as if they’re letting the viewer into the Franco tribe. Things do get a little weird in places as there’s a pseudo-sexual tension between Tommy and Greg, a very odd thing to see acted out by brothers.

The supporting cast are just that, no one else gets any real amount of screen time, but a few manage to steal some of the limelight from the Francos. Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron especially work hard to make sure that their roles are memorable. Hutcherson is clearly having a ball playing The Room’s Denny, the ‘teenage’ boy next door, and Efron is genuinely unrecognisable as Chris R. Seriously, the penny didn’t drop for me until The Disaster Artist got to its climatic premiere screening.

It’s an incredible feat of film-making too, cinematographer Brandon Trost, has worked tirelessly to recreate the look of The Room for scenes that are shown during the end screening. For an experienced filmmaker to try and emulate an amateur is no small task, but the result is pure perfection.

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The big question for some will be, can you watch The Disaster Artist if you haven’t seen The Room? I’d say that the answer is that yes you can, and you’ll have an enjoyable time with it, however, if you have watched the The Room you’ll have a much more enriching watch. Plus, to be completely honest, everyone should just go watch The Room. I highly recommend you track it down, better yet, if you can get to London, go watch it at The Prince Charles Cinema – the atmosphere there is electric.

The Disaster Artist is simply a delight to watch. The laughs come thick and fast from the opening moments and don’t let up until the very end. Be warned, you better stay in your seat until the very end as there’s a post-credit scene which features a very special person. It’s a true underdog story that embraces the quirks of its subjects and whilst funny, it is always respectful towards the them. The Disaster Artist has all the hallmarks of an Academy Award winning film – it’s based on real events, features a lead actor in prosthetics and tells a story about the movie industry. Only time will tell whether it will get any nominations, but it certainly deserves them.

The Disaster Artist releases in limited UK cinemas on Friday 1st December, ahead of a wider release on Friday 8th December.

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