The Disaster Artist (15)
Running time 1hr 44min
SOME things don’t end up the way they were intended. That was the take-home message of Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the most flat-out inaccessible movie of 2016’s Christmas cycle; it’s also the Big Important Lesson at the heart of this eccentric documentary comedy (doc-com?), by far the most instantly lovable to make the festive slate this year. Like Silence, it features a very hairy protagonist with a grating accent, but that’s just about where the similarities end. I promise.
How do you make a good film out of 2003’s The Room, one of the most irredeemably bad films ever made? Indeed, such is the interweb-fuelled legend of that cinematic oddity that it still regularly packs out multiplexes with adoring, hip-ironic fans, drawn from far and wide by its abysmal acting, unfathomable plot and porno-style production values. Whole books have been written about it; in fact, The Disaster Artist is an adaptation of one, an insider account of The Room’s turbulent conception, written by none other than Greg Sestero, its co-star (he of Patch Adams and, err … Dude Bro Party Massacre III). The story of how the movie came to be is real eye-popping, stranger-than-fiction stuff – indeed, many details remain shrouded in mystery to this day – but it finds itself condensed here into an endearing, cringeworthy, funny and frequently touching buddy comedy.
In 1998, Sestero (played by Dave Franco), an aspiring actor and James Dean fan, met Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), an oafish French-Polish-Enigmatistani émigré whose tenacity on-and-off-stage vastly outpaced his actual dramatic skills.
After moving in together at Tommy’s Los Angeles apartment, the pair, disillusioned with the Hollywood casting circuit and its inevitable train of frustrations, rejections and humiliations, decided to make their own movie. With Wiseau shelling out millions so that he might fund, direct and star in his ‘masterpiece’ (theories abound as to the source of his immense wealth to this very day), things could only have gone
horribly, horribly, wrong…
James Franco (who, fittingly, directs and stars) is very much the driving force behind this shaggy-dog yarn, utilising the sort of live-and-breathe method acting we’ve only really come to expect of biopics (or, if Jared Leto should get a word in edgeways, superhero flicks). The attention to detail is quite exemplary – our main man has Wiseau’s demeanour, mannerisms and accent (“oh, hi Mark”) down to a tee. For an actor to portray a character defined solely by their capacity for emotional illiteracy and bad acting (we don’t get anything approaching a break vis-à-vis Wiseau’s murky background) was always going to make for a tough sell, yet Franco stops masterfully short of an irksome caricature. Tommy is a singularly implausible figure, part-Nosferatu, part-Pee-wee Herman, part-Werner Herzog; he’s inscrutable, childlike and, by turns, downright abusive. Yet there’s something oddly human about his relationship with Sestero, and the Francos channel it effectively here without neglecting the story’s wackier dimensions. Once you’ve found it in yourself to forgive The Disaster Artist of its hair-raising farcicalities (Tommy has a special toilet set aside for his own purposes on-set; The Room grossed $1,200 after running up a production budget of over $6,000,000), this is ultimately just a tale of two unlikely friends with an impossibly big dream.
The Disaster Artist is the latest from the Point Grey comedy factory, renowned for their special brand of white-collar stoner dorkbuster (The Interview, Bad Neighbours, Sausage Party), yet the lack of gratuity and gross-out ‘humour’ is striking this time round. Yes, that’s right; here’s a Rogen-Franco vehicle you can take your granny to see. Probably. Pinky swear.