‘The Disaster Artist’ Review: James Franco Comedy Isn’t a Bad Movie, But It’s About One

TIFF 2017: Director-star Franco takes an affectionate and entertaining look at the making of Tommy Wiseau’s camp classic “The Room”

The Disaster Artist Billboard Tommy Wiseau The Room
"The Disaster Artist"

“So bad it’s good” is always a tricky proposition when it comes to art, but anybody who’s been to a raucous midnight screening of Tommy Wiseau’s colossally inept “The Room” over the last decade knows that it can be a real kick to simultaneously and publicly both mock and celebrate a truly awful movie.

And James Franco knows that, too, because “The Disaster Artist,” his film about Wiseau’s film, is a thoroughly silly, wholly entertaining and occasionally touching look at the “Room” boom.

In Los Angeles, where Wiseau made and first showed his magnum opus, the “Room” experience was centered around monthly midnight screenings at the Sunset 5 theater, where Wiseau would often show up, participate in Q&As and basically say, “I meant to do that.”

He didn’t, of course — he meant to make a serious drama about a young(-ish) man betrayed by his girlfriend. In Franco’s film, Wiseau justifies every staggering line, every inexplicable action by explaining that it’s “human behavior” — but one of the notable things about his film is that it’s full of people who sort of look like human beings but never indulge in anything remotely resembling real human behavior.

Wiseau, a wannabe actor and filmmaker of vague origin, wound up embracing the fact that audiences made his film a cult classic simply because it was so easy to mock — he clearly figured out that it’s OK to be the butt of the joke if it keeps you at the center of attention. Hence the midnight appearances, and the occasional suggestions that the film’s humor is intentional, a confounding proclamation for which “The Room” provides not a shred of evidence.

And Wiseau has now embraced “The Disaster Artist,” because of course he has. He showed up at the film’s midnight (naturally) premiere on Monday in Toronto and pronounced himself happy with the film. Yes, he comes across like a delusional no-talent whacko, but he’s being played by a movie star, dammit!

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“The Disaster Artist” is grand fun; it doesn’t try to explain Wiseau, because who would want to do that when you can just glory in his utter singularity and astounding ineptitude?

Franco’s brother Dave is along for the ride as Wiseau’s pal Greg Sestrero, who wrote the book of the same title. (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber did the screenplay.) In a way, Greg is the lens through which we see Tommy, though there’s precious little evidence that he’s a good enough actor to be hurt by his association with the whole debacle. Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer, as a long-suffering script supervisor and DP, respectively, are necessary voices of reason with lots of the best lines.

In Franco’s film, Wiseau fully embraces his film as a cult comedy rather than a failed drama by the end of its premiere, which seems a little accelerated. But you’ve got to move fast to contain the wacky Wiseau saga in a brisk 100 minutes, which Franco achieves in his affectionate tribute.

Still, let’s be clear about this, shall we? “The Room” is not so bad it’s good. It’s just so bad, period.

But maybe “The Room” is so bad that “The Disaster Artist” is good. That’s a trade off worth embracing.