How do you make a good movie about a really bad movie? THE DISASTER ARTIST both asks, and answers that question. Drawing from the infamously awful THE ROOM, James Franco’s film somehow eschews both cruelty and romantic notions of one of the worst films of all time.
To address the major elephant in the screening room: yes, you really should see THE ROOM before you watch THE DISASTER ARTIST. While I’m sure you would enjoy the film on its own, you can’t truly appreciate one without first watching the source material. It would be like watching ED WOOD before PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, or HUGO before seeing a single Georges Méliès film. You can do it, but I won’t recommend it.
Though not entirely focused on the making of THE ROOM, THE DISASTER ARTIST does build up to the creation and premiere of Tommy Wiseau’s (James Franco) singular opus. Before that we are left to not only ruminate on his friendship with Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), but we get to spend some time looking at what drew Sestero to Wiseau in the first place. Pop culture, and the manufactured cult built around THE ROOM have painted Wiseau as a caricature, and THE DISASTER ARTIST aims to show what his appeal actually is.
Sadly, for some this draw is money. But for others, especially Sestero, it is his fearlessness. Wiseau is everything that Sestero is not, and Sestero sees this. He wants to learn from him, and together they make an ambitious pair. Granted, a pair with little talent and bottomless funding, but driven nonetheless.
It is the way this drive and passion are framed that make THE DISASTER ARTIST a portrait, and not a love letter and not vilification either. Wiseau is shown as a sensitive artist who just so happens to be really shitty at art. But he tries, and he makes things happen, which is far more than mere dreamers can claim.
The supporting cast runs deep in the film. Every role is populated with a recognizable face (from Seth Rogan and Alison Brie to Paul Scheer and even Zac Efron) who seems happy to be a part of either Wiseau’s or Franco’s vision for the film. Though some of Wiseau’s crew are unkind to him, he earns all of their negative opinions, and none of them are unwarranted.
It is a bit odd to have such warm and fuzzy feelings about a film based on THE ROOM, but there is a certain degree of affection for it. While THE ROOM is undeniably a terrible film, it does deserve some attention and THE DISASTER ARTIST has managed to take a clear look at it, without the rose colored glasses.