Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) was struggling in acting class when a fellow classmate's no-holds-barred turn on the stage left him dumb founded. The man who claimed to be nineteen but looked twenty years older, who said he hailed from New Orleans but sounded Eastern European when you could understand him at all was Tommy Wiseau (director James Franco), Greg's admiration prompted Wiseau to invite the young man to share his apartment in L.A. and make the movie together which would become famed for being one of the most inept of all time, "The Room." Greg would later write about the experience in "The Disaster Artist."
James Franco's all-over-the-place career hits its sweet spot with his hugely entertaining recreation of one Hollywood hopeful's master class in how not to make a movie. Franco's lead performance is as bonkers as its inspiration yet exhibits finely honed craft, not quite imitating Wiseau's distinctive laugh but nailing its attitude, the outrageous accent dialed up for comic effect. His dance to 'Rhythm of the Night,' also featured over the end credits, is both a bonus and a mystery - were either Franco or Wiseau fans of Claire Denis's "Beau Travail," which ends with Denis Lavant's iconic dance to same?
Those who've seen "The Room" will enjoy the constant football tossing, delight in the cast and crew's reaction to Wiseau's low rent Skinemax aspirations and marvel at the number of takes required for Wiseau to remember his own cockamamie lines. Those who haven't are likely to rush out to see the original with their own eyes.
Franco's assembled a surprising ensemble, actors like Melanie Griffith and Sharon Stone popping in as an acting teacher and talent agency owner while others, like Bryan Cranston and Angelyne, appear as themselves (keep an eye out for Wiseau himself as Henry and Sestero as a casting agent). The cameos are a marvel in and of themselves, too many to mention. The director's brother Dave appears on screen with him for the first time, the grounding to James's electrical current. Ari Graynor aces that difficult act of acting badly as "The Room's" fickle minx Lisa. "The Hunger Games's" Josh Hutcherson seems as confused by his character Denny's presence as those who've seen "The Room" have been. Franco buddy Seth Rogen restrains himself against all odds to portray Hollywood cynicism as hired script supervisor Sandy Schklair.
This isn't just "The Room" redux though. As adapted from Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell's book by "The Spectacular Now's" Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, the film delves into Wiseau's strange, mysterious persona and his egotistical manipulation of Sestero, who remains his friend to this day. Wiseau's demand for loyalty cost Sestero a genuine shot at fame, his financial resources ensuring "The Room's" release. Yet the film is genuinely heart warming. Greg's reaction on seeing a billboard for "The Room" prominent on the L.A. skyline is one of horror, yet he not only dutifully shows up for its premiere, but convinces Tommy that the audience's laughter is a good thing, a sure sign that he's entertained people. "The Disaster Artist" is its perfect complement. Franco's attention to detail is evidenced in his rollout credits, where recreations not seen in the film are featured side-by-side with "The Room's" original scenes.
Robin also gives "The Disaster Artist" a B+.
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