Disaster Artist
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The Disaster Artist

Some movies become famous because of the artistic craftsmanship the filmmaker imbues in their work. Others gain lasting recognition through their message or themes convey insightful social commentary or the celebration of humanity’s potential for greatness. Then there are the movies that persist in the popular zeitgeist through the phenomena of being so bad that it becomes synonymous with all that goes wrong with a film. Somewhere between greatness and infamy are those examples of cinema that assume the appellation of a cult classic. This classification has been embraced by millions of cinephiles that can set aside the desire for proper construction or technical correctness and appreciate the entertaining camp value that unintentionally infuses the film. A number of these cult classics remain popular thanks to midnight showings in theaters or the DVD collections of fans. Among the more recent movies to achieve this status is the film, ‘The Room.’ This feature impinged upon the collective consciousness of film buffs rapidly becoming associated with the dubious designation of ‘Worst Movie.’ As is the case with a considerable number of independent movies the filmmaker undertook many aspects of the production. Listed as director, screenwriter, producer and leading actor was the uniquely strange Tommy Wiseau. He projects the essence of non-conformity and isolation. From his physical appearance mark on his face constantly hiding behind his hair to an accent offering no tangible indication as to an originating location. Mr. Wiseau is so far removed from any person ever encountered. The unreal miasma that enshrouds him was infused fully into his infamous movie. Books were written exploring the plethora of cinematic sins perpetrated in the 99-minute running time of this motion picture. The return on the listed $6 million budget was a paltry 1,900. The reason the expenses were relatively high has been attributed to rampant mismanagement of the expenses. Elaborate set not even used and high-end equipment did far more to bolster Mr. self-delusion of artistry than conferring a modicum of professionalism to the production. Arguably the greatest irony is the biopic made about the man, and his film ranked as one of 2017’s best pictures.

It is difficult to separate the film considered here, ‘The Disaster Artist’ from the real-life subjects, particularly Mr. Wiseau and his best-known opus, ‘The Room.’ The story, as presented in this context, was taken from the biography of Greg Sestero, a member of the principal cast in ‘The Room’ and associate of Mr. Wiseau written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. This team provided the screenplay for ‘The Disaster Artist,’ which earned them an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The story focuses on Wiseau by utilizing Greg as the narrator. The pair initially encountered each other in San Francisco while attending an acting workshop. After performing a scene, Greg is criticized for being overly reserved, unable to express himself as an actor. When Wiseau takes the stage, his performance is beyond out of control; he is untethered from reality writhing on the stage and climbing on the scaffolding. Understandably, the instructor chastises Tommy and is complete lack of professional demeanor or talent. Greg asks Tommy for help in coming out of his shell and express himself without reservation. Frequently in life, a person has a chance encounter that affects a substantial and last alteration to their life. Greg just had such an encounter. At this point in a biography the "taken under the wing of his mentor," is brought out. The use of this phrase is predicated on the other person fulfilling the responsibilities of a teacher. Tommy didn’t treat Greg as a student but rather as a sycophant, a person infatuated with Tommy and subjected to the whims of Tommy’s ‘experience while grabbing a bite at a dinner Tommy decides to go over a scene with Greg. The disheveled Wiseau raises the volume of his discourse to an annoying level. As Greg becomes increasingly uncomfortable, Tommy chides him into joining in the scene. Greg unexpectedly found himself elated, filled with a feeling of self-confidence, he finally felt like an actor.

Much to the chagrin of Greg’s mother (Megan Mullally), Greg announces that he’s leaving for Los Angles to move into with Tommy to pursue their acting careers. For some unknown reason, Tommy happens to own an apartment there. This does raise doubts with Greg but not sufficiently to go off on his own. There were several clues as to Tommy concealing the details of his life. The most causal question regarding any details of Tommy’s past are met with a degree resistance approaching paranoid behavior. Tommy is adamant about keeping his past shrouded in mystery. His unusual, indistinct accent and unorthodox the mannerisms contribute to the difficulty of determining something as relatively straightforward as a country of origin. Tommy did everything possible to perpetuate this façade. There is sufficient ambiguity in how the script resents Tommy and the incredible performance ce of James Franco that the audience can retain their reservations as to any motivation that might drive Tommy. He nurtured that reputation to hold followers, specifically, Greg. The intrigue generated would more than offset the iota of truth that has subsequently been revealed. He was considerably older than he pretended and apparently born somewhere in Eastern Europe.

Tommy was understandably unable to make any headway in his craft. At one point he accosted J.J. Abrams while the filmmaker was trying to enjoy a peaceful dinner. His loud and obnoxious attempt at an audition soon became disruptive to Mr. Abrams and the entire restaurant. As director and leading man, James Franco had an opportunity t infuse much of his eclectic style into the production. The offbeat characters and bizarre but substantially true elements of the story are the aspects of the film that Mr. Franco can shine his brightest. He was well liked in the industry an ability to secure the talents of some of the top A-List celebrities, including many in his close, personal circle. The most glaring example is casting his younger brother, Dave in the role of Greg. The young woman who becomes romantically involved with Greg, Amber, was played by his real-life wife, actress Alison Brie. The list of notable stars appearing in the movie is significant and can serve as the foundation for a drinking game. Amber was responsible for a crucial turning point between Tommy and Greg. As Greg started to succeed obtaining little parts and with a burgeoning love life, Tommy exhibited increasing signs of jealousy. After all, Tommy invested so much of his always guarded self into molding his youthful protégé. The movie details what went into creating one of the cinemas’ most infamous films ever screened. Crucial to making this movie work as well as it does lie in the uncanny accuracy of Mr. Franco’s performance. It is best if audience members are familiar with ‘the Room.’ Tommy’s presentation is difficult to describe accurately. The contrived nature of his laugh is perfectly captured as is Tommy’s emotional range that spans the gamut from ‘A’ to ‘A.’ the fact that such a robust personality can be pulled back into a restrained affectation demonstrates the amazing talent bodied by Franco. Only an artist of such eclectic expertise could bring such a stunted personality to life while retaining the full measure of entertainment.

bulletGag Reel
bulletLaugh-Out-Loud Audio Commentary with Director/Actor James Franco, Actor Dave Franco, Actor Tommy Wiseau, Actor Greg Sestero, and More
bulletOh, Hi Mark!: Making a Disaster Featurette
bulletDirecting a Disaster Featurette
bulletJust a Guy Leaning on a Wall: Getting to Know Tommy Featurette

Posted    04/17/2018

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