Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2017. Good Universe, New Line Cinema, Point Grey Pictures, RabbitBandini Productions, Ramona Films, RatPac-Dune Entertainment. Screenplay by Scott Neudstadter, Michael H. Weber, based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. Cinematography by Brandon Trost. Produced by James Franco, Evan Goldberg, Vince Jolivette, Seth Rogen, James Weaver. Music by Dave Porter. Production Design by Chris L. Spellman. Costume Design by Brenda Abbandandolo. Film Editing by Stacey Schroeder. Academy Awards 2017. Golden Globe Awards 2017. Gotham Awards 2017. Toronto International Film Festival 2017.
Aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is having trouble breaking past his own inhibitions in a San Francisco acting class until a fellow student, a long-haired, intense-looking man in his forties named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco, who also directs), who claims to be from New Orleans despite what is clearly an Eastern European accent, unloads incomprehensible rage on the classroom floor. Wiseau bewilders the whole class, but nineteen year-old Sestero admires his energy and the two quickly become friends; it isn’t long before they pile into the car and head to Los Angeles, much to the chagrin of Sestero’s justifiably worried mother (Megan Mullally in the best of the many delightful celebrity cameos here), the younger man scoring an agent (blink and you’ll miss a hilarious Sharon Stone) but getting few jobs, while Wiseau sinks deeper into despair. With the industry rejecting him and Sestero moving to a long term relationship with a girl he meets (Alison Brie, Dave Franco’s real-life wife), Wiseau explodes with jealousy until he realizes that show business is a place where if you can’t get work, you make work, and an idea is born. Sitting down at his typewriter and channeling all his love of James Dean, Tennessee Williams and his own insecurities about his friendship with Sestero, Wiseau comes up with what will eventually be labeled the best worst movie ever made, a dramatically inert and incomprehensibly-acted feature film called The Room. Production is a series of bizarre incidents made ever stranger by what appaers to be Wiseau’s bottomless bank account (the source of which is unknown to all around him), then when the film is done the premiere is a disaster that quickly turns into an Ed Wood situation when the audience decides the film is so bad it’s good. What has since become a phenomenon (the film has been playing on screens without stop for about 14 years, and is famous for a billboard that Wiseau personally bankrolled in Los Angeles for two years) was chronicled in a book by Sestero and Tom Bissell that has now been turned into a highly charismatic and continuously funny film that lays bare Wiseau’s blind ambition without being cruel or mocking. Recreations of scenes from The Room are fun to see happen, though it’s incredible how very impossible is is to really nail just how bad this movie is: Jacki Weaver can try her best, but nothing can recreate the monotone nattering of Carolyn Minnott as the main character’s mother, and Ari Graynor tries but can get nowhere near being as unwatchable as Juliette Danielle was. Franco sports the accent and uneven gaze and, while he is too young for the role (and his body isn’t nearly as upsetting to see naked), he is more vulnerable and available than he has been in a lead role in a long time. He enjoys good chemistry with his brother, but Dave Franco’s good looks and talent can’t make up for his being sorely miscast in the role: Sestero’s Sears catalogue model looks, notable height over the real Wiseau and obvious comfort in front of a camera had a lot to do with the auteur choosing him as the fulfillment of the American fantasy that he had conjured while still living behind the Iron Curtain, and casting a shorter, less middle-American looking actor with bad dye job loses a key element to understanding their relationship. That said, their interplay gets at the heart of a very touching relationship that anyone can relate to if they ever had someone embrace and celebrate their weirdness. Franco’s film sweetly takes what is often written off as a bad joke involving a deluded victim of Tinseltown and turns it into a sincere tale of creativity supported by friendship, so that when this serious project that Wiseau put his heart into becomes a carnival, his disappointment is heartbreaking and his decision to be such a good sport about it a triumph. Features appearances by the hosts of the How Did This Get Made episode that gave The Room a boost in audience awareness, June Diane Raphael, Jason Mantzoukas, and Paul Scheer.