I haven’t seen The Room, but it’s not for lack of trying.
I haven’t found a video streaming service that offers the film as a selection, and other than YouTube clips, I’m still looking. Fortunately, there are a lot of video clips and written articles out there, so I’ve gotten the gist of the film regardless.
The Room is regarded as one of the “Best Worst Films Ever Made”, and this is a rare case where that statement may not actually be hyperbole. Said to be made on a budget of around $6 million dollars, and written, produced, directed, and starring the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, the film looks to be a convoluted mess of bad one-liners, unresolved plots, and other nonsensical oddities.
Here’s where The Disaster Artist comes in.
The film goes behind the scenes of the terrible cult film, trying to make sense of Wiseau, who, after watching this film, I think I know even less about. His country of origin, age, and financial means are unknown (though some speculation has tracked him down in being born in 1955, and born in Poland).
Set in 1998 San Francisco, Wiseau (uncannily impersonated by James Franco) and fellow actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) want to be actors, but can’t catch a break. After forming a friendship, Wiseau offers Greg a chance to move into his Los Angeles apartment (hinting at Wiseau’s seemingly near-bottomless funds) so that they both can pursue their dreams.
Greg lands an agent, but has difficulty in finding work. Tommy has an even harder time as people struggle to understand his dialect and eccentric acting methods. Both dejected, Tommy is inspired to create his own movie for them to star in. And thus, The Room was born.
Of course, The Disaster Artist highlights some of the film’s most infamous clips, played to near-perfect pacing and style of the original film. There’s so much in the story that raises questions: Who is Tommy? What is his true background? Where does his money come from? Trying to understand the character raises even more questions, as his motives and methods are generally unclear. What is clear is that he has issues with betrayal, and trust, and jealousy. He wants to be a star and demands gratitude from everyone around him. He’s also a little bit of a stalker. Come to think of it, he reminds me of a similar soul that I once encountered during my time in Los Angeles, but Tommy has slightly more of a moral compass, and at least made his failures into some sort of long-term success for himself.
In a “book is always better than the movie”, moment, I’ve heard that the real-life Wiseau was presented in an even darker, more obsessive perspective. Then again, most film biopics tend to soften the edges of their protagonists to make them a little more likable in presentation (except for The Founder – Michael Keaton’s portrayal of McDonalds’ Ray Kroc was portrayed as utterly reprehensible by the end).
The movie is largely a comedy due to how random Wiseau’s personality and filmmaking methods are. James Franco is clearly having a blast with the role of Wiseau, right down to the signature “Oh hi, Mark” line delivery. Dave Franco does a sympathetic enough of a role as Greg, who tries to be a friend while realizing how messy of a film The Room has become. The supporting cast plays well as the bewildered production team that have signed up to go along with this ride. Even Seth Rogen put in a good performance as a flustered Sandy Schklair, a script supervisor who evolves into more of the true film’s director. Honestly, I think this is the first role I’ve seen for Rogen where he isn’t either having long discussions about or using weed in a movie.
The Room is a weird production, and relatable to anyone who has walked on a set before. Even one of the cast members muses that “Even the worst day on a movie set is better than the best day doing anything else.” And to me, there is a truth to that. Wiseau looks to be this generation’s Ed Wood with the same love and enthusiasm for the medium of film, but bless him, couldn’t make a good movie to save his life. There’s something empowering about having a dream, and seeing it through. Most people don’t have the courage to do that.
The Disaster Artist is an odd film about an even more odd film helmed by a still even more odd man. I have a soft spot for “so bad it’s good (but not really)” films, and I enjoy watching films about the behind the scenes of the movie business. Is it worth your time?
It’s funny and strangely inspiring, and something like The Disaster Artist could only come from Los Angeles. It made me smile and reminded me of the days of being on some of those more bizarre projects of my own, where it really was better than anything else.
I still need to see the actual Room movie. And read the book all of these events are based on.