In The Disaster Artist, James Franco Does a Suspiciously Good Impression of a Bad Artist, but the Point Eludes Us | Film Review | Indy Week

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In The Disaster Artist, James Franco Does a Suspiciously Good Impression of a Bad Artist, but the Point Eludes Us

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In 2003, a shady Hollywood creature named Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed, and starred in an independent film called The Room. It's generally considered to be one of the worst films ever made, in both concept and execution. Still, in the years since its release, The Room has achieved cult status in the manner of other famously bad movies, like Showgirls or the entire output of Ed Wood.

The Disaster Artist is the story of the making of The Room, and it's essentially an extended goof by director and star James Franco, who plays Wiseau with a long black vampire wig and a bizarre accent. He sounds like a Slavic James Dean on barbiturates. The story is told from the perspective of Greg Sestero (played by Franco's brother, Dave), a nineteen-year-old Hollywood wannabe who meets the fortysomething Wiseau in an L.A. acting class. (The screenplay is partly based on Sestero's memoir on the making of The Room.)

It's all very meta and wink-wink, operating on a frequency of smug irony popularized in the nineties, the "so bad it's good" thing Generation X inflicted upon popular culture. That was fun for a minute, but celebrating garbage gets old fast. You could make the case that the saga of The Room is a kind of off-Hollywood outsider art. The problem is that, while Wiseau may be an outsider, he's not much of an artist. He's a terrible actor who's not interested in learning. He just wants to be famous.

If Wiseau is a disaster in front of the camera, he's a tyrant behind it, throwing temper tantrums clearly modeled on internet clips of actual Hollywood tantrums. Everything he does is a cheap facsimile, a grotesque sketch of the Hollywood aesthetic America has been exporting to the world for a hundred years.

As portrayed in this movie, Wiseau is impossible to like. He's just weird and mean, a rich hack with delusions of grandeur. So all we can really do is laugh at him, and on that level, The Disaster Artist is a pretty good time. Franco's impression is very funny, Seth Rogan contributes some heroic straight-man work, and half of L.A. drops in for cameos. See if you can spot Sharon Stone. As a celebration of a bad movie, The Disaster Artist is OK, but the pointlessness of it all is hard to get past.

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