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Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 12:04 am

Franco’s Disaster a tribute to the artist in us all

James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist.


There’s no question that Tommy Wiseau is a passionate “artist.” It’s not everyone who can say they financed, wrote, directed and starred in their own $6 million movie. There’s also no question that the man is delusional, or, at the very least, sees the world and his role in it through a very unique perspective. He is truly a piece of work and, I think, more complex than his image would have us believe.

After watching The Disaster Artist, it’s obvious that James Franco has a great deal of respect for Wiseau, as this chronicle of the making of the actor’s disastrous The Room is one filled with admiration for his drive and determination. Franco, in addition to directing, portrays Wiseau, and he never plays him as a fool. Granted, he doesn’t hold back in showing that he’s delusional, socially awkward and a horrible actor, yet there’s never any criticism in the script by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber or Franco’s performance to suggest that they have anything but respect for Wiseau’s willingness to put himself out there.

Unfortunately, Wiseau’s efforts aren’t met with the sort of praise and adulation he was hoping for. The movie he made, The Room, has been called the “Citizen Kane of bad movies,” and that’s not an exaggeration. Having never seen this epic, I attended a local, sold-out screening on Friday night, and it is truly, extraordinarily bad. I could not fully appreciate all of Wiseau’s leaden dialogue, as so many audience members were yelling at or responding to the inane actions on the screen that much of it was drowned out. I got the gist of it though, and it’s obvious why The Room has become the cult classic it is – despite how badly acted, written and directed it is, there’s a sincerity to it all that opens it up to derision. Still, there’s a sense in the audience that viewers appreciate his effort, despite his having fallen so short of the mark.

The same can be said for Disaster. Wiseau is not portrayed here as a saint – his treatment of the members of his crew is deplorable while his behavior towards roommate and co-star Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is at times unconscionable – but he is deserving of our respect due to his single-minded pursuit towards making his dreams come true.

Disaster is very funny during its first two acts as we witness the birth of Wiseau’s dream and his attempt to take Sestero under his wing. James Franco’s performance is a deceptive one; a turn that looks easy, yet is in reality a high-wire act between the ridiculous and the sincere. With his unidentifiable accent and slightly slurred mumble in addition to his stiff movements, the actor creates a tragic comic figure that’s all too relatable. His brother Dave is equally good, realistically enthusiastic as he sets out to take Tinsel Town by storm, only to become increasingly disillusioned once he realizes how misguided Wiseau’s project is.

Due to narrative expediency, the script plays fast and loose with the facts during its third act in order to give the viewer a satisfactory ending that was years in the making rather than a single night. However, the end credits effectively underscore Wiseau’s passion as scenes from The Room are run next to recreations of them from Disaster. They are simultaneously hilarious and touching, and you can tell that there’s a separate movie playing in his head that’s quite different from the one the ended up on screen.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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