James Franco's intimate examination of a talent-less auteur-turned-cult legend debuted as a "work in progress" selection at this year's SXSW Festival. And although I avoided the screening while there, mostly due to the fact that I had never seen The Room before, as rumblings of its sharp-comedic effectiveness grew, so did my anticipation for the film's release. The Disaster Artist has found its way to select screens, and while the effort is certainly a solid watch, it's also a far cry from the comedic gold we've come to expect from Franco and his crew of usual suspects.
When a shy and timid actor named Greg (Dave Franco) stumbles across the fearless performer Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in an acting class, he immediately reaches out to him in hopes of doing a scene together for class. Yet, as their bond grows, Greg learns of Tommy's mysterious financial security and they venture to L.A. together with visions of making it big. But as the harsh realities of Tinseltown begin to set in, Tommy and Greg quickly discover that, if they want to be in a "real Hollywood movie", they'll have to make it themselves.
What can be said about The Disaster Artist's source material, The Room, that hasn't been said already? The king of the "so bad it's good" genre, Tommy Wiseau's hysterically awful production proves to be a worthwhile central focus for director/actor James Franco. He tackles the strange and mysterious aura of Wiseau with immaculate precision. You can sense his passion and commitment for the project, which should be fully appreciated, but Franco's performance also suffers from his usual bouts with hyperbole, even when portraying someone as outrageous as Wiseau. In fact, there were a few moments throughout the film where I caught myself favoring James' brother, Dave Franco's, onscreen work over his own Golden Globe and SAG-nominated performance. And from a pure story standpoint, The Disaster Artist struggles to get off the ground running. You're forced to wallow through a stale first act before they finally jack-up the energy with the behind-the-scenes filming of The Room. To the movie's credit, however, it does improve with every passing minute and concludes in a truly satisfying fashion. The Disaster Artist isn't nearly as funny as I had hoped, but it's still a strong and respectful homage to an unskilled visionary who somehow managed to make cinematic history.