Saturday, December 16, 2017

Movie Review: The Disaster Artist

James Franco's incredible performance as Tommy Wiseau is hilarious and shows his range as an actor. Greg (Dave Franco) is a young aspiring actor when he witnesses the wild, inspirational bravado of Wiseau in acting class. He asks the strange man to read a scene with him and Tommy invites him to a restaurant to read a scene in front of the other patrons. Greg feels powerful after the performance and they form a fast friendship. Inspired by Hollywood legends like James Dean, Greg and Tommy set out for Los Angeles much to Greg's mother's dismay. Tommy does not explain how he just has another apartment in Los Angeles on top of the apartment in San Francisco or where he got the money for his Mercedes. He lets Greg take the bedroom while he hangs up curtains for his room.

Greg works to get an agent and land parts in television shows or films and finds some moderate success. He does meet Amber (Alison Brie), a bartender, and Tommy's jealous nature begins to surface. Wiseau makes up elaborate stories to pretend he is having success but his lies are easily disproved and his attempts to impress producers are met with scorn. Feeling downtrodden and defeated, Tommy is ready to give up when Greg gives him the idea to create his own film. The funding for this film remains a mystery but Tommy is convinced he can do it so he sets out to write a screenplay. He comes up with the idea of The Room, writes the screenplay, and shows it to Greg making him read it through while in a restaurant. Greg, in his optimistic nature, agrees to work with Tommy to create it and take on the second lead role. Together they set out to make the infamous film, The Room.

Tommy does not hold back on the expense preferring to buy the equipment instead of rent it and hire on a professional film and television crew including script supervisor Sandy (Seth Rogen) and Raphael (Paul Scheer). They cast the various roles demanding strange performances to earn the lead female role which eventually goes to Juliette (Ari Graynor). Production begins and Tommy's strange behavior becomes immediately relevant to the rest of the crew. He uses two types of cameras, digital and film, and insists on having his own bathroom that no one else can use. He gives strange speeches about human behavior and encourages his actors to believe in themselves but when it's his turn to perform, he freaks out and is unable to remember the lines. Greg has to calm him down and eventually gives him a water bottle which results in an infamously poorly performed scene. 

The production continues but goes awry when Greg tells Tommy that he is moving out. Cast members start to notice that the story doesn't make any sense with plot points being introduced but never being dealt with later. A sex scene proves too much for some workers and another day on set with no air conditioning adds to the troubled work environment on top of Tommy recording the cast members complaining when they think he isn't listening. Greg gets offered a part by Bryan Cranston but he needs to keep his beard as Tommy demands he shave it for a scene. The production runs behind schedule and over budget but Tommy's financial seem limitless as he hires a new crew. Greg confronts Tommy about his mysterious money and origin. The two fight while the new crew films. Greg distances himself from Tommy and finds some success on stage. Tommy returns to him after he does not RSVP to the movie's premiere. The two friends go to the premiere in a limo and watch as everyone laughs at their work. Tommy is embarrassed but Greg encourages him to embrace the humor and be proud of his film.

The performance by James Franco carries the film that would otherwise have a decent story but is not all that entertaining. The humor comes from Tommy's strange behavior and the way Franco betrays him as his younger brother Dave's Greg serve as the person who is somewhat normal but sees the determination in Tommy as something to be followed. The film drags a bit in the middle and I had not yet seen the room so I didn't understand all the jokes during the filming. Now that I have watched the result of Tommy Wiseau's work some of the laugh lines make a lot more sense. James Franco's performance deserves recognition and the film has a lot of good laughs with an inspiring message.  

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