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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Review: The Disaster Artist is a fitting tribute to Tommy Wiseau

James Franco's biopic is a hilarious antidote to standard Hollywood Dreamer made good fare

James Franco in The Disaster Artist. Photo by Justina Mintz
James Franco in The Disaster Artist. Photo by Justina Mintz

The infamous The Room (2003) is undoubtedly one of the worst films ever made. It’s widely been afforded the title of "Worst Film Ever Made," and while cinephiles could argue that point for hours with competition like Plan 9 from Outer Space, The Swarm and Troll 2 among the competitors with a fair claim of their own, it’s definitely very, very bad.

The story behind The Room sets it apart from those other terrible movies, all of which came very much from within the Hollywood machine, albeit at the B-Movie end of the scale. The Room was an entirely different beast and now, with The Disaster Artist, James Franco conversely sets out to tell the story behind that very bad film, in a very good film.

Its director and creator, the mysterious Tommy Wiseau – a man of unknown origin (he claims to hail from New Orleans, but his accent is more Bratislava) and unexplained wealth – is an aspiring actor whose talents are at best hidden.

He is despondent after singularly failing to land roles and ready to give up on his dream. On meeting fellow dreamer Greg Sestero at his San Francisco acting class, however, he is inspired by a throwaway comment from his new pal: “We should move to LA and make our own movie.” So they do.

Thus begins the journey to the big screen as Wiseau, as inept as director as he is in the film’s starring role, Sestero and their hired crew and cast set about producing their cinematic disaster, which would ultimately attain “so-bad-it’s-good” cult status and remains a regular on the midnight screening circuit to this day.

The film is a genuine riot, faithfully recreating sections of the original movie and featuring an acting masterclass from Franco as he skillfully gets right under the skin of the bizarre Wiseau – stick around for the post-credit side-by-side scenes to realise just how faithfully Franco and company have reconstructed the original in the fake scenes.

It’d be easy to descend into simple parody of the misguided Wiseau and his awful movie, but there’s a clear fondness for the subject matter here, a respect for the protagonists that goes beyond caricature, and an unexpected poignancy to the challenges our heroes face.

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There’s a supporting cast featuring the likes of Seth Rogen as Wiseau’s perpetually perplexed script supervisor, and de facto director, who desperately attempts to give at least some coherence to Wiseau’s filmic musings, and Alison Brie as Sestero’s love interest, but really this is the Franco show, with brother Dave taking on the role of Wiseau’s straight man Sesteros. The film is based on the real-life Sesteros’ memoirs.

This time last year, all the movie talk was of La La Land’s likely assault on the Oscars. The Disaster Artist isn’t receiving quite the same Oscar buzz, Franco’s performance aside – comedies rarely do. The movie does, however, offer a welcome antidote to that piece of feel-good Hollywood dreamer schmaltz. Here, Wiseau’s determination to chase his Hollywood dream is met with ridicule and failure, yet somehow the tale’s ending offers a strangely uplifting moment, with plentiful belly laughs on the way.

The Disaster Artist hits theatres on January 4

The Disaster Artist

Director: James Franco

Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogan

Four stars

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