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14 Dec 2017

A Beautiful 'Disaster': James Franco's Homage to One of the Worst Movies Ever Made Is Surprisingly Heartwarming

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Dave Franco and James Franco in The Disaster Artist. Dave Franco and James Franco in The Disaster Artist.

If you love all kinds of movies, and you haven’t yet seen The Room, you really need to change that.

Written, directed by and starring the legendary Tommy Wiseau, it’s possibly the greatest bad movie ever made. It’s so great in its badness, the Rifftrax episode (the movie-bashing bastard stepchild of Mystery Science Theater 3000) with the movie is actually annoying. You just want Mike Nelson and friends to shut up and let you enjoy the pure experience of The Room. No riff is funnier than what is happening in the actual movie.

James Franco pays tribute to Tommy Wiseau with The Disaster Artist in much the same way Tim Burton glorified shlockmeister Ed Wood more than 20 years ago. Franco directs and stars as Tommy, complete with the awesome long vampire black hair and chipmunk cheeks that comprise “the Wiseau.” He also nails the Wiseau mystery accent. (While his IMDb profile says he was born in 1955 and comes from Poland, nobody seems to really know Wiseau’s true background.)

For the first time in a movie, Franco co-stars with brother Dave, who gets one of his best roles yet as the legendarily bad Greg Sestero, friend to Tommy and co-star in The Room. The film starts in San Francisco, with Greg struggling to remember lines for Waiting for Godot in a savagely bad acting class. Strange classmate Tommy lumbers onto the stage and butchers a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire—and a friendship is born. The two agree to work on scenes together, bond in their lousiness and, thanks to Wiseau’s strange apparent wealth, move to Los Angeles to fulfill their dreams to become actors.

After a stretch of unsuccessful auditions, the two decide to make their own movie—and this is where the film really takes off. Fans of The Room will rejoice in hilarious recreations of iconic The Room moments such as, “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!’ and “Oh, hi Mark!”

The supporting cast includes Franco pal Seth Rogen as cranky script supervisor Sandy; Zac Efron as the actor who portrayed the oddly named Chris-R in The Room; and Ari Graynor as the actress who brought the majestic Lisa, Tommy’s onscreen sweetheart, to life. Josh Hutcherson plays the actor who would be Denny, perhaps the most unintentionally frightening character in Wiseau’s movie. Sharon Stone, Hannibal Buress, Melanie Griffith and Randall Park also appear.

The Disaster Artist is actually based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, co-written by Sestero, and the film is heartwarming for multiple reasons. It’s fun to see a misfit make it, even though it’s in a roundabout sort of way, and it’s fun to see that accomplishment depicted by the Franco brothers. It’s about time these guys did something together. Perhaps it’s the first of many future collaborations.

When Franco’s Wiseau watches the final cut of The Room with a rambunctious crowd that loves/hates his movie, Franco delivers some of the best acting of his career—on multiple levels. On the screen in ‘The Room,’ he’s doing a spot-on impersonation of Wiseau, with an odd accent, bizarre facial expressions and a horrific writhing, naked ass during an exquisitely bad sex scene. In the audience, Wiseau sheds tears as everybody around him mocks his movie. Franco succeeds in making us feel terrible for the guy.

That sadness quickly disappears, replaced by euphoria as the crowd cheers his trash masterpiece—and Wiseau embraces the notoriety. By the time the film wraps, it hits you that Franco has somehow made one of the better “feel good” movies of the year.

Make sure to stay for the credits, where Franco plays his re-creations of scenes from The Room next to Wiseau’s originals. The scenes sync up almost perfectly, and are so good that I often found myself confused regarding which was which. Wiseau himself shows up after the credits for what turns out to be the movie’s best cameo.

The Disaster Artist is now playing at the Century Theatres at The River and XD (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940) and the Century La Quinta and XD (46800 Washington St., La Quinta; 760-771-5682).

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