Susan Granger’s review of “The Disaster Artist” (A24)
It’s rare that making a truly terrible movie gets celebrated, let alone re-made into a major release. But that’s the case with Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” (2003), related by director/actor James Franco.
Based on a 2013 memoir (“The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”) by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero and adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, it chronicles how Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero met after a San Francisco acting class in 1998.
Blandly handsome Greg (Dave Franco, a.k.a. James’ younger brother) so admires the deranged exhibitionism of weird Wiseau (James Franco) that he suggests they do a scene together. That leads to a friendship/partnership, as they move to Los Angeles, determined to become movie stars.
After suffering inevitable rejection within the film industry, delusionary Wiseau writes an incoherent screenplay for them both and funds it himself, spending $6 million on this ludicrous vanity project.
When they visit a movie-equipment supplier, who inquires whether Wiseau wants to shoot on 35-mm film or high-definition video, he opts for both, insisting on buying the equipment rather than renting it. Realizing megalomaniacal Wiseau’s guileless ineptitude, the supplier then offers to add in the use of their own studio and professional crew.
James Franco actually recreates about 20 minutes of absurd awfulness of “The Room” as part of this movie-within-a-movie.
Told from Greg’s naïve perspective, the anecdotal story never delves into egocentric Wiseau’s mysterious past, including his garbled, vaguely Eastern European accent. And the source of his seemingly unlimited funding is never revealed, which adds to the concept’s inherent superficiality and triviality.
For celebrity spotters, there are cameos by Judd Apatow, Kristen Bell, Alison Brie, Bryan Cranston, Zac Efron, Ari Graynor, Melanie Griffith, Josh Hutcherson, Seth Rogen, Adam Scott, and Jacki Weaver.
According to IMDB.com, Wiseau was born in Poland in 1955 and his income derived from leather and real-estate businesses. Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau have a new film, “Best F(r)iends,” set for release in 2018.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Disaster Artist” is a slick, yet schlocky 6, a muddled misadventure.