In a 2017 interview with Howard Stern, Tommy Wiseau revealed he’s Catholic. Fitting, in that the actor-director behind the supposed “‘Citizen Kane’ of bad movies” is proof that, as Father Henri J.M. Nouwen often advised, you can find joy even in the worst of situations.
That’s “The Disaster Artist.”
Actor-director James Franco used Wiseau’s unintentionally comedic cult classic, “The Room,” as his foundation for crafting a dramatically funny, documentary-like look at the mysterious moviemaker. In doing so, Franco turned one man’s aloofness and enigmatic accent into another happy accident: his, and maybe the year’s, best performance.
Franco tells Wiseau’s Razzie-less rise alongside roommate and “Room”-mate Greg Sestero, played by Franco’s younger brother, Dave, who provides a surprising, and effective, dramatic balance to the more subtly whacky Wiseau—a turn from Dave’s more typical roles as a wisecracking teen chach. Frequent Franco collaborator Seth Rogen does the same as Sandy, script supervisor on “The Room.”
Though their résumés would suggest its eventuality, never do the brothers Franco or Rogen let their “Disaster” morph into mockery—which would’ve been easy and no doubt tempting given the subject matter. Rather, they—and director James, in particular—always treat Wiseau with respect. He ends up being quite the loveable loser.
And that’s also to James’s credit as an actor. Watching Franco fill Wiseau’s shoes is more painful than seeing him slice off his own arm in “127 Hours,” for which he received his first and only Oscar nomination. He’s likely to get his second as Wiseau.
If “The Disaster Artist” has any room for criticism, it’s in parts of its production. Though the story screams dramedy, the score and one key scene unfortunately keep it cornered as a comedy. And that’s fine; it just weakens Wiseau’s most vulnerable—and also proudest—moment. Still, it’s a minor quibble in an overall quality film. “The Disaster Artist,” after all, is no “Room.”
However, good bad movies are some of the best serendipitous cinema. From “Battlefield Earth” to “Plan 9 from Outer Space” and “Congo” – a personal favorite – to “The Room,” filmmakers, such as Wiseau, have brought joy to many and should be celebrated accordingly. Franco’s “Disaster Artist” does exactly that.
It’s no “Ed Wood”—Tim Burton’s exceptional nod to “Plan 9”—but it’s a feel-good film, especially for those unabashedly unafraid of following their dreams, no matter how crazy they might seem.
Wiseau’s wild one certainly paid off. And so does Franco’s. “The Disaster Artist,” like “The Room,” is a beautiful disaster and a real joy.
4.5 out of 5