Franco deepens legacy of Wiseau’s classic in The Disaster Artist


Dreams tend to go one of two ways in Hollywood: the way of the rising star, or the way of the shriveling raisin. Shattered dreams may speckle the streets of Los Angeles like black spots of gum, but there is always redemption to be found while pursuing them — a learning experience imbued in the many failed attempts — which makes the final success shine all the brighter.

The only question is how far the artist will go to achieve their dream in the face of life’s insurmountable odds.

James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is a heartfelt and ruminative exploration of a misunderstood creator and his process. In this dramatized biopic chronicling the absurd circumstances behind one of the most reviled and beloved films of all time, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, Franco, directing and playing the role of Tommy, frames his 13th directorial feature as a cavalcade of pure insanity.

The actor and director nevertheless proves that even the movie that christened the “so bad it’s good” genre did not emerge from a vacuum, and that if fact was ever stranger than fiction, it was so on Wiseau’s Los Angeles set.

Largely following Greg Sestero’s memoir, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, Franco’s interpretation of the events that unfolded on and off set add emotional and philosophical dimensions to Wiseau’s multi-faceted debut.

Tommy, a man whose name was plastered all over his own film, is in many ways like Eugene O’Neill’s panhandling smoker from the play Long Day’s Journey into Night. “He hasn’t even got the makings. He’s got only the habit,” is a line said by one of the characters in that play, and it describes Tommy’s uncompromising dream to become a movie star.

A chance encounter with a stage-shy Greg, played by Dave Franco, catapults the two would-be actors from their humble beginnings in San Francisco to the glittering boulevards of Hollywood.

The infectious on-screen chemistry of the Franco brothers is what truly gives The Disaster Artist its comedy chops. James Franco nails Tommy’s nearly unintelligible “Eastern Europe-meets-New Orleans” accent to an astounding degree; whether he sees himself method acting in the years to come or not, the director is totally immersed in his character.

Dave Franco also plays a splendid Greg, capturing the friendship he had with Tommy, which may or may not have inspired The Room itself.

His development outside of the movie set leaves something to be desired, but it is through Greg’s interactions with Tommy that the character of the film itself becomes tangible.

Although the movie can be watched without watching The Room ahead of time, The Disaster Artist certainly benefits from an informed audience. Its painstaking attention to detail routinely asserts that what transpired between the director Wiseau and the actor Sestero was at the heart of The Room’s scattered plot.

The real answers may still be hidden like the center of a tootsie roll pop — impossible to discern yet easy to speculate — but James Franco plants his own answers throughout the movie to establish a deeper meaning to an otherwise meaningless film.

That Wiseau’s magnum opus was a similarly biographical drama is an idea that cannot be unseen once implied by the romantic storyline.

The speculation by the rest of the film crew members, however, is misguided: they broach the truth without fully grasping its implications, which the director wisely leaves up to the audience to define.

But there are no ambiguities as to the symbolic nature of Tommy representing the American dream. James Franco’s interpretation is purposefully cloaked in mystery: the only definite part of his true-to-life character is that he made this absolutely terrible movie, and that he somehow had the bank account to support this dream.

To this day, nobody knows many facts about Wiseau. The less asked about where he gets his money the better — as if the man merely came out of the woodwork and made a film completely on his own terms. Over a decade later, people still cannot stop talking about it.

The Room was a film that reportedly cost a staggering $6 million to produce and made under $3,000 on initial release, but has gone on to become a cult classic. The proof is in the turnout to The Disaster Artist.

From the ashes of this utter failure of a film, Wiseau achieved cinematic immortality, and so rubs shoulders with posthumously celebrated artists such as Vincent van Gogh and James Dean.

Wiseau will forever live on through his work and now, through director James Franco, has been immortalized and vindicated as the visionary he always saw himself as.

With the Oscars around the corner, James Franco’s relation to Wiseau recalls a long running joke on Tumblr relating to a previously Oscar-less Leonardo DiCaprio —that the actor to play him in his biopic would win an Oscar before the famous performer himself.

That may very well be the case this time around. As a homage to The Room, James Franco’s own vision succeeds in every way its inspiration failed.

The Disaster Artist burns bright but casts no shadows, the lime light is shared and well deserved and the end result is a film that forever changes how its predecessor will be viewed. If that does not constitute a dream achieved, nothing else will.