Breaking Into Acting the Wiseau Way: The Disaster Artist
According to IMDb, Tommy Wiseau was born in Poland in 1955, though the source of this information was not Wiseau himself. While he has kept many details about his past a secret, he recently admitted to Jimmy Kimmel that he was born in Europe (not Poland), and not New Orleans, as he has often claimed. Since 2003, Wiseau's big claim to fame was his feature film The Room, which was released that year. The Disaster Artist takes a look at the years leading up to the making of this camp classic, and his friendship with a fellow actor as they seek their big break. James Franco stars as Wiseau, a successful California businessman studying acting. Following an acting class, he meets Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), a model who'd like to take his looks to the screen. When Greg compliments Tommy's thespian histrionics, Tommy offers Greg a chance to be his roommate. They then head to Los Angeles, get agents, and try to pursue their dreams. Their agents, though, don't have the same image of them that they have of themselves.
Tommy then decides to follow a different path to stardom that Greg supports. Tommy starts to write the screenplay for the film that eventually will get both notice. When Tommy finally finishes the screenplay, he and Greg start the preparations by purchasing film equipment. The purchase request gets them the use of the company's stages for a reduced rate. Tommy hires the actors and crew who audition and apply for jobs on the spot. Tommy's lack of experience and eccentricities often try the patience of script supervisor Sandy Schklair (Seth Rogen) and cinematographer Raphael Smadja (Paul Scheer). Tommy reminds them that he calls the shots, and one of them discovers his paychecks do not bounce. Greg even grows impatient with Tommy as the shoot runs long, strains his relationship with his girlfriend Amber (Alison Brie), and costs him a chance to appear on a TV show. Several months later, though, Tommy invites cast and crew to the movie's premiere.
Seeing The Room for oneself isn't a requirement for following The Disaster Artist, which is based on Sestero's recollection of events. However, people who have not seen The Room will find spoilers in James Franco's look at the making of the movie, which includes recreations of the movie's most iconic moments. It's a humorous look at two guys who decide to use a movie get notice. Their scheme works, though not exactly in the way they wanted. Tommy and Greg are a legitimate variation of Bialystock and Bloom. The actors do so much wrong, yet something went right. The engaging screenplay comes from the team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, whose previous collaborations include (500) Days Of Summer and The Spectacular Now. James Franco presents a well-paced film about an odd couple who found common ground.
James Franco often sounds like a Frankenstein monster in his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau, but he does a pretty good impression of a man whose first language is clearly not English. Tommy's committed to his own vision, even when Sandy sees a moment of conversation that might offend a lot of people in a real-life situation. He also refuses to give Greg an off day for a potential opportunity of his own. For a guy who seems to like football, Tommy surely doesn't know how to throw one. Dave Franco gets top billing as Greg, a young man swept up in Tommy's admiration, even though the clearly older Tommy tells a very skeptical Mrs. Sestero (Megan Mullally) that he is nineteen. Greg also shows he's a friend when things don't go the way Tommy wants at the screening. Rogen is fun as the appreciative, yet frustrated, Sandy, who sometimes has to help Tommy realize his vision - especially when Tommy has his first moment in front of the camera. A number of actors have small roles in this picture, either as themselves or in small parts. The first appearance comes from Kristen Bell, and the last comes from Wiseau himself. In addition to James Franco, Oscar nominees who appear here include Melanie Griffith, Sharon Stone, and Jacki Weaver. A third Franco brother, Tom Franco, also has a brief appearance.
Since The Room, Tommy Wiseau has not made another feature film. He made a 2004 documentary short about the homeless problem in Los Angeles, a music video, and directed several episodes of his 2014 Hulu series, The Neighbors. He may never have to bring another tale of his to the big screen, for the man has seen his fifteen minutes of fame (or infamy, to some) last nearly fifteen years. The Room was definitely a box office disaster in first run, but The Disaster Artist tells the tale of men with big dreams that others could not understand or develop. They ultimately decided to take their dreams in their own hands, and let people see for themselves what they could do.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Disaster Artist 3.5 stars. How to make a film with no experience necessary.