The Disaster Artist (2017)
December 3, 2017 8:49 AM - Subscribe

When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true. (IMDB)
posted by Countess Elena (10 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
After months of anticipation, I saw this movie last night. The place was packed, and I overheard someone complaining that it was sold out. Everyone who came seemed to know The Room pretty well; one guy brought a football. But I came with some people who didn't know the movie too well, and all three of us had a great time. It is getting high marks on Rotten Tomatoes and it's worth it. I was frequently bending over with belly laughs. James Franco's transformation into Wiseau renders him alternately hilarious and terrifying.

I've read the book several times, because it always makes me laugh on a low day, and the movie doesn't bear a strong resemblance to it. Whether the movie is more "real" or not, I can't say, of course, but the book tells a more complicated, sadder story. In the movie, Greg seems to like Tommy right away, and they have a kind of bromance, despite Tommy's jealousy and quasi-sexual menace. In the book, Greg's emotions are more of a mixture of gratitude, pity and dread. Also, Greg isn't a bad actor, as he's portrayed to be; he did lead a movie before The Room, although that movie was Retro Puppet Master.

Although I have been a "fan" of The Room for some time, Wiseau's struggle with the famous "oh hai Mark" scene in this movie gave me, for the first time, a reckoning with the idea that we have possibly all been laughing at a man whose actions are affected by a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. This theory is only suggested in the book, which also suggests Tommy's origins; the movie refuses to do that.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:17 AM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Countess, I agree about the car accident. I do wonder if that plays a huge part of who he is. The book also referred to his potentially tragic past before he came to America, which the movie didn't even blink at. I do wonder what Tommy thinks about all of this.

That said, I enjoyed the movie. I thought Dave Franco did a great job as Greg, and James did well enough, though I felt he slipped into parody just a little too much. Still, the movie was a blast and well worth a viewing. The cast of this movie alone is outstanding (and seeing the members of How Did This Get Made? Was great!).
posted by gc at 7:32 PM on December 3, 2017

I can't comment on how well the film reflects reality, as I don't know the actual story behind Wiseau.

I thought the film was quite entertaining, and yet was still extremely frustrated by it.

One of the reasons is the storyline, and it's one I'm sick of: Hilariously weird and immature man child creates massive chaotic mess and grows up a little as a result. I never liked that storyline, and I never want to see it again.

Beyond that, the film wants us to have sympathy for Wiseau, and ultimately come to the conclusion that he is some sort of outsider artist who accidentally made a comic gem. But that's not the story we're given.

Instead, we're given the story of an egomaniac with too much money and no real skills who becomes abusive when his delusional worldview is challenged, but who nonetheless fails up to become a success of sorts.

That's the fucking Trump story, and I don't want to be told I need to feel good about it because it's a story about art instead of politics or business. There is nothing special about stories about rich white men who fail up.

Additionally, the film barely addresses Wiseau's misogyny, which is unavoidable in The Room and in display in the scene where Wiseau sexually humiliates his actress because he is having a temper tantrum at Greg.

I'm sorry, but don't expect me to root for a character after he does this.

The film could have been a critique of this sort of thing. Instead, by refusing to address it, and by making Wiseau an unlikely artist-hero, it celebrates it.
posted by maxsparber at 7:33 AM on December 4, 2017 [8 favorites]

Confession time - I've been hearing people invoke The Room for years, but up until just this month I thought it was a weird avant-garde sort of thing directed by Klaus Nomi. I think I was envisioning something like Satre's No Exit. This has set me straight, fortunately.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:34 AM on December 6, 2017

I agree that this film technically focuses on "the story of an egomaniac with too much money and no real skills ". I was reluctant to see it since I thought The Room was a perfect example of no talent+ unlimited money. It was a common combo I've seen since studying film and working with creative people.

Filmmaking is the only art form where having money is the most important element to being seen by a sizable audience, whether you're making an indie or a blockbuster. As far as I can see, a local DJ/graffiti artist in a medium sized city can get his work out to his community relatively easily through small venues, compared to an indie filmmaker.

I liked the movie since it made me more interested in the friendship and the balance between being supportive/ambitious and being delusional. If you've ever worked on a hopeless creative project, you'll identify with that!

I laughed at the actual filmmaking part, but liked the first part where it is mainly Tommy and Greg hanging out.* That then sets up how an ambitious, no talent, rude, misogynist actually interacts with professionals, not just his very forgiving friend.

*The book is great because Greg is constantly questioning Tommy's motives and background, along with his own ambitions, and that is not easy to do in a film. Wiseau is not only ambitious, he is clearly jealous of Greg's own early start in the business and his ease with people. The fact that Wiseau's car wreck almost certainly affected his brain makes things more relatable in the book.
posted by Freecola at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just realized that Franco basically embedded an episode of How Did This Get Made in the film, including having June Diane Raphaeil speculate on the film in a way she does in the podcast, and I do think that was damned clever.

It almost makes up for the literal rickrolling that happens early on.
posted by maxsparber at 5:58 AM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I liked the book (and audiobook). I thought the movie was a mess. I could tell five minutes in that James Franco and the screenwriters totally missed the mark on both Greg and Tommy.
The characters were very thin and, as Countess Elena mentioned, didn't capture the complexity of their relationship or the conflict that Greg was experiencing through the ups and downs of their relationship.
posted by starman at 6:33 AM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I watched the movie, and now I've listened to much of the audiobook. I have two observations:
1. Greg is a really awful audiobook narrator, which makes me doubt his acting skills, though I recognize they're different things. Really, he's best when he's talking in someone else's voice, particularly Tommy's voice. He's worst when he's reading lines from The Talented Mr. Ripley or Sunset Boulevard - he's so wooden, so lacking emotion, I want to shout "YOU'RE NOT DOING YOURSELF ANY FAVORS HERE!"

And more painfully, 2. I have come to realize Donald Trump is much like Tommy Wiseau, except more successful in his scams and abuses, probably because he's better at appearing competent. Both are aging men who surround themselves with young people, both do weird things to their hair and lie about how healthy and/or old they are, both are terribly manipulative and abusive of people around them, and both have lied, bluffed and conned their way into various forms of success. For me, I found that my recollections of The Room were no longer funny by half way through the (audio)book of The Disaster Artist, when the breadth and depth of Tommy's narcissistic, abusive, toxic behavior is fully on display. And now that I'm farther through it, I don't think I can finish it, because it all feels too much like a parallel story of Trump.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:00 PM on January 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

I found this one a chore to get through. It's a movie about a clearly brain-damaged man and a mediocre actor who first try and fail to become actors, and who then make a very shitty movie, abusing some other people along the way. There's nothing enjoyable about any of that for me.
posted by orange swan at 8:33 PM on September 12, 2018

I really enjoyed both the book and the movie, but they are very different entities. The movie, I feel, does a great job of streamlining and simplifying the story told in the book into something that feels narratively cohesive. I was belly-laughing throughout the scenes where they make The Room, and I do think Seth Rogen's deadpan reading of "I did not hit her... I did not, oh hi Mark" (in this scene) might be one of his career highlights.

The book tells a weirder story than the movie - I confess to being intrigued and a little creeped out by the character of Greg Sestero as he portrays himself in it. He comes across as intelligent and thoughtful but I can't tell if he sticks with Wiseau because he genuinely likes him, or he pities him, or because he recognises in Wiseau a deluded, rich sugar-daddy type figure who will shower him with money and presents. It feels really sinister. (It doesn't help that Sestero comes across as dead-eyed in every interview with him I've ever seen; nothing like the smart, funny narrator of The Disaster Artist, but that's probably co-author Tom Bissell's voice.)

Whereas Dave Franco's Greg really does care about Tommy; at the very worst he's exasperated by him but nothing stronger than that.
posted by unicorn chaser at 2:52 PM on January 13, 2019

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