There is a lot that can be said about Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult hit “The Room.” Cemented now in cinematic legend as “the greatest bad film ever made,” the film originally gained a following among jeering college students due to its hilariously poor writing and acting, irrelevant characters and narrative subplots that pop up unexplained and go nowhere. But Wiseau is not in on the joke. To this day, the eccentric and enigmatic director has said he believes “The Room” is a great film.
In 2013, “The Room” second-lead and Wiseau’s best friend, Greg Sestero, wrote a book with author/journalist Tom Bissel recounting the chaotic production process of “The Room.” The book, titled “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” pushed the film’s cult following closer to the mainstream, and it now serves as the inspiration for James Franco’s newest film.
In addition to directing, Franco also stars as Wiseau in a transformative performance that alone makes the film worth a look. I half-expected to see a parodic but not-totally-convincing impression of the bizarre filmmaker, but rather, Franco treats viewers to a fully realized recreation. With the exception of obvious facial differences (though Franco succeeds in emulating Wiseau’s permanently dazed, empty expression), Franco totally fades from recognition, bringing forth the full persona of the character. His grammatical slips, accent and awkward physicality are all pitch-perfect.
Aside from Franco, most of the acting is only passable; that is, it simply serves its purpose of making the scene happen. James’ brother Dave Franco plays the role of Greg, the primary protagonist of the story, while Wiseau is portrayed more as a force of nature that exists in Greg’s life. Given the focus on Greg, it would be nice to see Dave Franco make a stronger mark on the story’s emotional core; in the end, it’s Wiseau who carries that weight, while Greg’s persona feels more functional than moving. But perhaps that was intentional, given that the real Sestero’s acting in “The Room” feels similarly mundane and naive.
But it’s hard to care much about the other acting because Franco steals every scene (as Wiseau does). In the end, the movie lands as one of Franco’s best and works as a great feel-good film.
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