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Wiseau Triumphant: 'The Disaster Artist' reveals the man behind the curtain

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Charlyne Yi, Kelly Oxford, Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer, and Dave Franco in "The Disaster Artist" (Photo: A24)

The Disaster Artist
4 out of 5 Stars

Director: James Franco
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Ari Graynor
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Rated: R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity

Synopsis: The improbable story behind Tommy Wiseau’s infamously bad cult film “The Room.”

Review: A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to watch “The Room” in a theater with a hundred or so rabid fans of the film. I’d seen bits and pieces of the movie, but I’d never sat down to watch it in its entirety. Make no mistake, “The Room” is poorly made and there are aspects of the way the story was filmed that feel torturous and exploitive. And yet, the experience of watching “The Room” was a joyous experience as plastic spoons rained down from above and giant inflated footballs were thrown across the theater. Worst film ever made? Probably not, but it certainly has to be in the conversation.

What gets lost in all of this is that Tommy Wiseau, the director, writer and star of “The Room,” made a film that somehow managed to become a culture phenomenon.

If you asked me, which you haven’t, I’d say the secret to the success is Wiseau himself. Wiseau is a bizarre enigma, the sort of character that most writers wouldn’t dare to create. So of course, James Franco, a character of sorts in his own right, would direct and star (as Wiseau, no less) in a film dedicated to exploring the making of “The Room.”

And you know what? It’s a pretty amazing story that makes for an extremely enjoyable film.

“The Disaster Artist” is a celebration and a cautionary tale. It is part American Dream and part American Delusion. It could have been a Christopher Guest film, but it was true, so someone else had to make it.

My fear was that Franco, along with co-stars Dave Franco, Ari Graynor, Seth Rogan, Alison Brie and Jacki Weaver, would be laughing at Wiseau and exploiting his eccentricities in hopes of making a few dollars from the millennial crowd, Instead, the film is actually a labor of love made by people who are as fascinated with Wiseau and the making of his film as they are bewildered by the film itself.

Bewildered, but entertained.

“The Disaster Artist” is a funny film, but it is also a film that respects the story it is telling. It would be easy to make a film that simply mocks Wiseau and his efforts to make a Hollywood masterpiece. It is far more difficult to make a film that not only makes the audience care about Wiseau, but also feel a mixture of sadness and joy when it comes to the way his film was received. It is a film about people who went to Hollywood to find fortune and fame and had to settle for being part of something that is beloved because it is awful. There is some sadness there. That's the double-edged sword of fame. You can aspire to be well known, but you can’t always determine what you are known for.

Franco and his team have made a film that is filled with affection. The story is strange enough, no need to embellish or overplay it. Just tell it.

There's no need to have seen "The Room" but, should you choose to, I highly suggest you do so with an audience. The rowdier the better.

Franco is a workaholic. In any given year, he’ll appear in a dozen or so different projects. He’s so ever present that sometimes it’s easy to overlook how talented he is. It takes films like “Milk,” “127 Hours” or “The Disaster Artist” to remind us that we’ve taken him for granted. Maybe he has taken his own talent for granted. Don’t be surprised if an Academy Award nomination is forthcoming.


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