At First Glance: ‘The Disaster Artist’ [Opinion]

The making of ‘The Room,’ the worst movie ever, reveals a heart and determination that may explain why its cult is justified.

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At first glance, the movie billboard on Highland Road in Hollywood can easily be mistaken for a real studio production, a coming attraction that begs a second look, just so you can put a name to the face staring down at you in rush hour traffic. For a moment you thought you recognized the actor, with his face chalk white and morose, but you don’t. There is no “coming soon” or “in theaters” date anywhere on the poster and there isn’t much to gather from the title alone. You aren’t sure if The Room is a movie or a mistake. Well, it turns out it is neither. The fact that critics and moviegoers have dubbed it the worst movie ever made is an insult to Leonard Part 6 and Gigli — at least those, were movies. The Room is just poop caught on film and smeared all over, and if fans of fetishistic fecal porn take offense to the derision, then rightly so.

For those unfamiliar with Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 affront to celluloid and bellybuttons, James Franco is about to change all of that. The Disaster Artist, Franco’s film adaptation of the Greg Sestero bestseller by the same name, goes into wide release this weekend, and if Dani Di Placido at Forbes magazine is to be trusted, it is definitely worth the price of admission.

“Watching The Disaster Artist is at times, a downright surreal experience,” wrote Di Placido.

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Franco, along with Seth Rogen, acquired the rights to the book, a behind-the-scenes tell-all about the making of the film, after online forums and midnight screenings stirred a cult following. The film, like the book, captures the aberrance (or madness) of one Tommy Wiseau, an actor determined to make it in Hollywood despite his funereal appearance and inability to act. At acting class, he befriends fellow thespian Greg Sestero and the two set out on the path to Hollywood glory. However, glory is waylaid momentarily by casting agents and producers, perhaps too busy gallivanting with reluctant sex objects to take note of the duo’s rawest or possibly overcooked talent.

It is here when others might throw in the towel that Wiseau adjusts his mouthguard and punches his gloves together. He convinces Sestero to join him in making their own movie, which he will finance using the $6 million he keeps hidden in a plastic bag inside his toilet tank and in a coffee can in the back of his kitchen cupboard.

The Disaster Artist details the union formed between the outlandish and the curious and the spectacle it gives birth to. James Franco’s performance is already being complimented with award season buzz and could garner a Golden Globe if nothing else, while the rest of the cast, his brother Dave, alongside Seth Rogen and Alison Brie, all deliver sterling performances. If this film was meant to be a mockery, then it shouldn’t be this serious. Fans of The Room may get a bit more than a laugh with this one. Lessons in resilience and determination are par for the course here, and it threatens to uplift and encourage in much the same way The Room begged taunts and jeers.

One has to wonder just how the success of The Disaster Artist will affect the cult of The Room. Will people still flock to audience participation at midnight showings, or will this just all go away? Whatever the outcome, Tommy Wiseau can take heart that he is finally famous enough to be played by James Franco, while the rest of us can look to Tommy as a beacon of intent and resolution. Never give up.