James Franco should teach a UCLA course on the art of impersonating Tommy Wiseau.
In “The Disaster Artist,” Franco co-stars for the first time alongside his younger brother, Dave Franco, to re-enact the filmmaking process behind the infamous film “The Room.” Based on actor Greg Sestero’s book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” James Franco’s film explains the reasons behind the unintentionally comedic details of the cult classic and shows how success can come from unexpected places.
James Franco plays the secretive and ambitious filmmaker Wiseau. He nails the character’s mysterious essence, performing Wiseau’s undefinable accent and oblivious behavior flawlessly. At first sight, it’s easy for the audience to laugh at James Franco’s obvious impersonation of the filmmaker with his long, dark wig, multiple chain belts and light blue contact lenses. However, as the film continues, James Franco’s dedication to his character connects with the audience emotionally as it goes through his character’s ups and downs in his pursuit of stardom.
Dave Franco portrays Sestero, a younger, aspiring actor with frosted tips and medium-length stubble, who is more in touch with reality than Wiseau. Though both Franco brothers are talented stars in their own right, their sibling rapport shines through on screen. The Francos’ brotherly dynamic creates a believable depiction of their characters’ complex relationship as Wiseau and Sestero build a close bond full of stressful conflicts and heartwarming encouragement.
While the film has obvious moments of hilarity, such as an over-the-top photo shoot of Wiseau crawling on the ground as a fan majestically blows his hair, “The Disaster Artist” effortlessly creates a dramatic plot about chasing fame that palpably shifts from scenes of joyous optimism to heartbroken failure. The first rapid switch in mood takes place in a scene set at a Los Angeles bar, where Sestero meets a bartender named Amber (Alison Brie), who Wiseau sees as a threat to his close relationship with Sestero. The distinct shifts in mood create a natural emotional turbulence that makes for a dynamic story line.
Apart from the Franco brothers, “The Disaster Artist” features a star-studded cast of comedy icons including Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Nathan Fielder, Hannibal Buress and Josh Hutcherson. Watching famous actors portraying aspiring artists is jarring and confusing in a way that heightens the film’s comedic effect. However, the all-star cast does not distract from the film’s main plot but instead gives a detailed portrayal of the cast and crew’s ridiculous interactions with Wiseau during the making of “The Room.”
In one scene, Rogen, who plays the script supervisor Sandy Schklair, sits through nearly 70 takes of Wiseau trying to remember and perform the single iconic “I did not hit her” line, which Wiseau wrote himself. In another scene, the filmmaker is reluctant to provide his cast and crew members with air conditioning and water on set, angering Sestero and causing aged actress Carolyn Minnott (Jacki Weaver) to faint.
Though the believable interactions between Wiseau and other characters made for an entertaining and captivating film, the cinematography also helped engage audience members with the film. In one scene, the camera follows a naked Wiseau as he yells at makeup artists to cover up an imperfection on the skin of actress Juliette Danielle (Ari Graynor). Such close shots immerse audience members in the filmmaking, creating the same feelings of discomfort that the crew members on screen feel.
The combination of talented actors, immersive cinematography and an engaging script make “The Disaster Artist” an entertaining look at the downward spiral that was “The Room” and its climb to cult status. The film places its viewers on an emotional rollercoaster that will leave them smiling about the embarrassingly bad film’s unexpected rise to fame.