Review: The Disaster Artist

Written by Amber Jackson

It’s the story you’ve always been waiting for! Or is it?

Based on Greg Sestero’s book, this 2017 film provides an insight into the life of Tommy Wiseau and his colleagues behind the camera of ‘The Room’ – universally acknowledged as the best worst film ever made. Starring as Wiseau is James Franco, who also directed the film (coincidence?!) and he is virtually unrecognisable. His physical mannerisms are so accurate, you have to squint to make sure you’re not actually looking at Tommy Wiseau. Playing Greg is Franco’s brother, Dave Franco, and the two of them capture the complex friendship between the two aspiring actors who are still friends today.

High profile stars such as Kristen Bell and Adam Scott begin the film with self-aware cameos, premising what the audience is about to see, from the stance that Tommy Wiseau is a true artist. Other incredibly famous and talented actors also appear in various scenes and those include; Sharon Stone, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogan, Josh Hutcherson, Alison Brie, Zac Efron and plus. We first see Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) in San Francisco, 1998, where it is immediately revealed that he not only insecure about his acting, but not very good! It’s incredibly entertaining to see talented actors play actors that are awful. Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), on the other hand, isn’t initially revealed to the audience. We first see Tommy how Greg saw him; making a dramatic entrance through the power of obscure acting, which is entirely outside of the box and seems emotionally devoid. Greg, on the other hand, lights up as he sees Tommy and craves his fearlessness because it’s the one thing he desires and so in befriending Tommy, he pushes Greg to be the best. James Franco completely embodies the strangeness and obscurity that is Tommy Wiseau with accurate mannerisms, his intensity and his love for American football.

This film is a fascinating insight into Tommy Wiseau’s actions, as well as what was going through Greg Sestero’s head when he moved to LA with a man that he barely knew for the sake of an idealistic dream. Both men are presented as sharing the same dream and both agree to push each other in order to obtain the dream of making films. The Franco brothers perfectly display the intense reality of the American film industry and portray figures within that world as terrifying and flawed, which comes as a massive slap in the face for both characters. Once the film jumps to LA, it becomes evident very quickly that Greg has the image that agents are looking for, whereas Tommy’s weird audition experiences prove his ideas are too radical for casting directors. Feeling misunderstood, Wiseau decides to write his own work based on the anger that he’s felt in his life.

By the time we reach 2002, after Tommy has defied the norm and bought cameras and completed a more than unconventional audition process, the shoot for ‘The Room’ begins. It’s clear very quickly how irrational Wiseau is, as he has no idea what he’s doing, when we see the recreation of iconic scenes from the original film, as well as the anger behind each person. Despite writing the screenplay, Wiseau struggles to remember any of his lines and we see the frustration that lay behind multiple takes as well as his unreasonable towards cast and crew, as well as their infuriation towards him, whilst even they were trying to speculate as to what the film was about. It’s also highlighted that Wiseau insisted on an open set, even during the filming of sex scenes, which other crew members were disgusted by.

It becomes clear very quickly that Wiseau is trying to mimic a perception of what he believes Hollywood to be, regardless of the ethics. His influences become clear: the “you’re tearing me apart” line from Rebel Without a Cause (1955), shows that Tommy took parts of films that he really admired and included them within ‘The Room,’ as well as “Mark Damon from The Talented Ripley Man” (meaning Matt Damon), Tennessee Williams’ writing and the aggressive direction of Alfred Hitchcock, hence why he remains nude and maintains horrible set conditions.

We cut forward eight months and see that Sestero is performing in theatres, but then Wiseau reappears in his life, begging him to attend the premiere of ‘The Room.’ Once again, it’s as though Greg owes Tommy something and so goes with him. However, despite appearances of needing to be a Hollywood cliché, Tommy needs Greg to help him battle his nerves and give him that final push, giving the audience more insight into their complex friendship. Once we get to the premiere, Wiseau is shocked at the initial reception of his film because the audience laugh at its ridiculousness. People are enjoying the film, but not for the reasons that Wiseau hoped for. It highlights that, as a creator, you can’t control how the world will perceive content that you put out into the world and that sometimes the intended response isn’t always what you’ll get. Ultimately, people love the film because it’s awful and so Wiseau goes along with it, claiming that it’s a black comedy.

The film ends with side-by-side shots of the original scenes from ‘The Room’ alongside the 2017 recreated scenes and they are scarily similar. It’s clear they had a lot of fun with this film, as they remade infamous scenes from Wiseau’s ‘masterpiece.’ But ultimately, Tommy Wiseau is portrayed as arrogant and infuriating to work with, but whilst watching the film, you wonder why he behaves like this – but you never find out, which adds to the frustrating mystery of his persona. The film taps into ideas of what defines a good artist and, although Tommy Wiseau isn’t an ‘artist’ by Hollywood’s standards, he had faith in his work and Franco makes this very clear.