Pop Art long ago established that high art can be made out of low art, but can good art be made out of bad? Most definitely, and “The Disaster Artist” is the proof.
James Franco directs and stars in this hilarious new movie about the making of a terrible movie.
When “The Room” hit the big screen in 2003, it was generally understood that Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space” was no longer the worst film of all time. “The Room” had dethroned it.
The brainchild of a strange and unknown filmmaker named Tommy Wiseau, “The Room” is about a romantic triangle between a guy named Johnny, Johnny’s unhappy fiance, and Johnny’s best friend. It’s most notable for its ridiculous script and atrocious acting. Just how ridiculous and how atrocious, you ask? Here is a snippet.
“I did not hit her. It’s not true. I did not hit her. I did not.”
“Oh. Hi, Mark.”
“Hey, Johnny, what’s up?”
“I have a problem with Lisa. She says I hit her.”
“What? Well did you?”
“No. It’s not even true. Don’t even ask.”
“I used to know a girl, she had a dozen guys. One of them found out about it, beat her up so bad she ended up in a hospital.”
“What a story, Mark.”
“Yeah, you can say that again.”
“I’m so happy I have you as a best friend. And I love Lisa so much.”
“Yeah man. Yeah. You’re very lucky.”
So laughably bad is this film that a cult following has grown up around it, such that for many of its midnight and monthly screenings, the audiences are shouting out lines in unison, and throwing small items at the screen a la “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The main difference between those two films is that “Rocky Horror” was in on the joke, and “The Room” wasn’t. Convinced he’d made an emotional powerhouse, Wiseau had a hard time understanding why audiences were laughing so damn hard.
The laughs are even harder in “The Disaster Artist.” First off, Franco does a spot-on impression of Wiseau, with his hard-to-place accent and somewhat broken English.
“So there’s this guy, Johnny. A true American hero to be played by me. He has it all, good looks, many friends. And also, maybe Johnny is vampire, we’ll see.”
Even more spot-on than Franco’s acting is his recreation of the actual movie. Not only does he show us the vicissitudes of inept filmmaking in general, Franco also gives us stunningly accurate depictions of real scenes straight from “The Room.” Some of the heartiest laughs in the film come when Franco presents scenes from the original film side-by-side his own recreations. The similarities are uncanny.
But “The Disaster Artist” also benefits from being able to show how the bewildered film crew felt during the shoot. Seth Rogen is very funny as the assistant director.
“This set of the alleyway looks exactly like the real alleyway.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“So why don’t we just shoot it in the alleyway?”
“Because it’s real Hollywood movie.”
Although Franco mines the situation for laughs, he also wants us to see Wiseau as more than just a joke. What could have been a very mean-spirited film is saved by Franco’s generosity of spirit. He clearly has affection for the misguided egomaniac. After all, Wiseau’s no less a dreamer than any of the millions of others who flock to Hollywood in the hopes of hitting it big. The fact that he’s spectacularly untalented does not diminish the intensity of his vision. If anything, his lack of talent makes his quest even more quixotic and hence, ironically, more noble. Perhaps.
You don’t have to be as fond of Wiseau as Franco is to appreciate the fact that “The Disaster Artist” is a love-letter to movie-making, no matter the quality.