Film Review: The Disaster Artist (USA, 2017) is a profound display of fearlessness

Tommy Wiseau’s laughably bad The Room has such a strong and passionate cult following that the “disasterpiece” is still being discussed, screened and dissected 14 years after its limited cinematic release. There aren’t many films that can boast that kind of staying power, existing in a singular universe where something is so bad it takes on a life that no other film in history (no, not even Troll 2) has, shifting it from self-indulgent melodrama to “quirky new black comedy”. Reframing a film’s genre based on audience reaction is unprecedented; The Room is unprecedented; Tommy himself is unprecedented, so of course when one of The Room’s actor, Greg Sestero, wrote a tell-all book about the bizarre making of this film someone had to come along and adapt it for the world to see.

That someone was James Franco, a man who has already shown how strongly he relates to The Room not only on a comedic level but also an emotional one, with Tommy’s success against-all-odds channeled into genuine, heartfelt and profound inspiration. James, BFF Seth Rogen and brother Dave Franco lead the surprisingly all-star cast in bringing The Disaster Artist, Greg’s autobiographical novel, to life and with it present one of the most endearing comedies in recent memory.

The film begins with the fortuitous meeting of Wiseau (James Franco) and Sestero (Dave Franco), both hopeless actors in their own way, swiftly shunned at the door of Hollywood before they even get a foot in. The chemistry between these two brothers is a defining quality throughout the film, and it’s likely the movie wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same without it. Wiseau, clearly older and inexplicably wealthy (the movie never goes into detail about how he got his money) coaxes Sestero into moving to L.A with him to pursue acting careers, which is where to constant rejection leads to an ill-advised idea to make their own movie. “That’s great idea”, bellows Franco in the hard-to-place European accent that is but one of the layers of mystery surrounding the real-life Wiseau.

It’s Tommy’s fearlessness – whether that’s intentional or not – that creates this awe-inspiring undercurrent to The Disaster Artist that is more palpable as the film draws to a close. Even through the side-splitting laughter there’s a sincerity that’s touching and completely in favour of Tommy and his curious project, which is threaded together with some of the greatest and most satisfying moments of fan-service in cinematic history. The Room fans are a hypervigilant, easter-egg-loving bunch and some of the scenes James has thrown in there should guarantee repeat viewings.

Like with all adaptations, there are a few things strangely left out to make the film a bit more cohesive and stick to time constraints. One such as the fact that Greg was forced to usurp his role as Mark from another actor, with an elaborate and unnecessary plan hatched by Tommy simply because he didn’t want to confront the other actor and tell him that he is fired. This would have been hilarious to watch unfold but it’s absence is understandable.

Putting Seth Rogen in the role of the script supervisor and defacto director for The Room was also an excellent idea. Portraying Sandy Schklair, Rogen is given the honour of being the proxy for what would have been the most common audience reactions to seeing The Room and Tommy Wiseau for the first time, often acting incredulous in response to Tommy’s bizarre behaviour. It accentuates the absurdities of the making of The Room, juxtaposing reason with some of the strangest and nonsensical directorial decisions that completely go against the fundamental rules of making a film.

Much has been said about Franco’s performance as Tommy Wiseau and none of it has been understated. The actor, who often switches frantically between drama and comedy strikes the perfect balance here, impeccably bringing Tommy to life as a larger-than-life character whose fearlessness defies all logic and reason. His accent starts off a bit choppy towards the beginning of the film, but by the end of The Disaster Artist it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the real Tommy from the fake one, and an unmissable post-credit scene proves this.

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Disaster Artist is out now.