Movie Review: The Disaster Artist
Director: James Franco
by Jason Koenigsberg
James Franco, Seth Rogen, and their friends (Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, etc.) usually make movies that a bunch of frat boys can get together casually watch and enjoy. Films like This is The End (2013), Neighbors (2014) and The Night Before (2015) are less like movies than they are excuses to watch Seth Rogen and his friends with frat boy mentalities hang out and have fun. There is no denying that these actors live fun lives, but each time they get together they feel the need to make a movie out of it. Which is a shame since James Franco and Seth Rogen have proven multiple times that they are talented actors and can discipline themselves enough to escape into challenging roles as we have seen with James Franco in 127 Hours (2010) and Seth Rogen in his supporting role as Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs (2015). Much like Adam Sandler chose to not accept more challenging roles and instead got big studios to pay for him and his friends to film their vacations, Seth Rogen is doing the same with his career choices. Neither one really wants to venture too far out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves or their audiences. This makes us miss Robin Williams so much more.
The Disaster Artist tried to and could have been this decades Ed Wood (1994). A loving tribute to a more recent cinematic debacle. What Tim Burton did for the laughably bad Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), James Franco tries to do with The Room (2003). Both are notoriously bad movies that have earned well deserved cult classic status as guilty pleasures. Both films need to be seen to be believed, yet The Disaster Artist does not have much else to say other than The Room is bad and Tommy Wiseau, the films writer/director/producer and star lacked talent and intelligence, but might have made up for it with passion. The same message only not nearly as Burton’s examination of director Ed Wood’s life and career.
The movie opens up with testimonies from celebrities like Kristen Bell, JJ Abrams, and Adam Scott about how much of an amazing spectacle The Room is. It then jumps right into a scene where our main characters played by brothers James and Dave Franco meet at an acting class where the teacher is played by Melanie Griffith. James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, the infamous writer/director/producer and star of The Room. For long portions of The Disaster Artist the film lacks a point of view or purpose other than to just show the chronological events of how Tommy Wiseau inexplicably got his script made into a $6 million dollar independent movie. For most of the film all the audience really sees are actors doing loving impersonations of actors from The Room that are already easy punchlines in many circles among film buffs. There is no real skill or necessity to make an elaborate movie about something a group of friends stand around and make fun of. The Disaster Artist provides no new insight into The Room or anyone involved in it. Tommy Wiseau is still a mysterious figure to most and looks more like a creepy guy you see on a subway at night than a romantic leading man. This movie is just a tribute to his passion and dedication much like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood or the often forgotten Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy comedy Bowfinger (1999).
The moral of The Disaster Artist is very simple. If you have enough money and a lot of willpower, you can make a movie in Hollywood, even if everybody tells you that you cannot. There are some funny moments and they mostly involve reenactments of the most famous scenes from The Room. In the second act The Disaster Artist tries to touch on a more somber tone as it makes Tommy Wiseau out to have some serious loneliness issues and shows him to be self-destructive on and off the set. Eventually by the last half hour The Disaster Artist emerges as a strong story of friendship which is something that writer/director/star James Franco and his Frat Pack buddies certainly know a lot about. Those were the films strongest moments, other than some obvious mockery of a bad movie that is an easy target of ridicule.
Instead of seeing The Disaster Artist, check out Ed Wood, Bowfinger or The Room. Better yet if you have not seen The Room, watch the video below, it is really all you need to know about this modern cult classic.