The film adaptation of The Disaster Artist is both admirable that it exists, as much as it is a bit of a disappointment as a fan of the The Room and the titular book that it wades into fiction. It’s a perfectly fun and lighthearted watch that gives you a nice little half-documentary retelling of a great tale. But that’s where the movie falls short. It’s just a half-documentary/mockumentary and leans into the comedy side a bit much for me, with the focus more on having fun making a movie versus staying true to the source material.
Usually when a project like this gets made, it looks like a Kickstarter movie: flat angles like a soap opera, efficient shooting and cinematography, one or two “star” actors that are definitely actors but not really stars and overall acceptable acting but nothing special. But this movie is different. It has a real budget and has actual name talent in the roles and a litany of cameos.
James Franco is the man behind it all and he cast himself as the infamous Tommy Wiseau. He doesn’t generally excite me as an actor but he does a really good Tommy Wiseau impersonation. It would be so easy for him to play to the comedy side but he restrains from going too far that way. He nails it and really has you buy in. It doesn’t feel like a comedic impersonation, but that he really wanted to be in character in service of the best movie he could make so I give him props for that.
His brother Dave Franco plays our beloved Greg Sestero and the results there are much more mixed. I’ve met Greg Sestero, read his book, seen him in interviews and followed some of his other work. I don’t feel that Dave Franco captures Greg’s personality and overall demeanor the same way that his brother committed to going full Tommy. Plus his fake beard is terrible. It’s full on pubes-glued-to-face bad.
Seth Rogen is in the movie as an off-screen personality as Sandy Sinclair. I guess you can’t really have a Franco movie without Rogen and you get the feeling that they wanted to cast their friends in the movie too. There are a lot of small roles and cameos by actors you’ll recognize: Zac Efron, Jason Mantzoukas, and Sugar Lynn Beard were most notable to me. Sugar is my favourite as I grew up watching her on YTV. I really like Sugar.
The point of the movie and the entire aura of this project is to tell the tale of the worst movie ever made. To visually tell the story of a movie that got reviews such as “it feels like you’re being stabbed in the head”. That’s the goal, and this is where the film is just okay.
The movie does a decent job of telling the story you want to see. You do get a glimpse through the looking glass and get to learn some of the behind the scenes quackery. There is a charm to seeing the wild interaction and unfiltered Tommy moments from the book now being played out visually.
But it’s still glossy and sugary. The book will constantly drive home all the different ways that Tommy was a terror on set. Arriving late, treating people like trash, being an emotionally abusive asshole, etc. But then also the moments where he’s just a guy passionately trying to make his passion project while being woefully unequipped to do so from every perspective.
The movie glosses over a lot of those moments. There’s really only one moment where you get terrorist Tommy. The rest of his scenes are just loveable doofus. I wanted to see more of Tommy the Terrorist dickhead and not this sympathetic weirdo.
The relationship between Greg and Tommy is also much different on screen compared to the book. They’re more along the lines of good pals in the movie that are having some ups and downs, yet they stay close through the whole ordeal of The Room. Reality was much different where Greg and Tommy weren’t really friends for a very long time. Greg tolerated Tommy and Tommy was trying to use Greg. The dynamic there definitely involves some weird interpersonal stuff and manipulation. I don’t know about you, but that isn’t common to me in a healthy friendship.
They’ve reconciled obviously, since money will do that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it can be tough to treat this movie as a serious or accurate re-telling when you know you’re looking at fiction. Because when you know this part isn’t real, like the motivation of the beard shaving scene, then you’re going to question other parts you’re less familiar with.
Overall, the movie does a decent job of telling an entertaining story but it fails to accurately tell the true story behind it all. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as Tommy and Greg were both officially involved in this project and both would want to be seen in good ways and not have their dirty laundry exposed.
But that’s the juicy meaty goodness in the book to me. This is more comedy film than a historical film or bio-pic. The novelty of this kind of movie should be celebrated. I enjoyed it. But I just wanted more. If you know you know at this point.