The Disaster Artist

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday December 1, 2017

'The Disaster Artist'
'The Disaster Artist'  

When we first meet Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) in "The Disaster Artist," he's delivering a shaky monologue in a community theatre class. The teacher refers to his performance as "painfully unremarkable," as if he were a "wounded puppy." Next to the stage is Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), whose persona is revealed in pieces. First, we hear the voice, a strange, stunted Eastern-European sounding accent. Then we see his outfit -- or rather, hear it, considering Tommy's baggy pants are draped with multiple belts, chains and a ring of about 30 different keys.

Wiseau storms to the stage, delivering a "monologue" that can best be described as a masculine exorcism. Channeling the prose of Tennessee Williams, Wiseau aggressively yells "STELLA!" multiple times while throwing a chair, climbing the rafters and writhing on the floor, until collapsing into an exhausted defeat with his final line, "Don't ever leave me, baby." From this performance alone, Greg sees fearlessness in Tommy. To capture some of this courage for himself he approaches this strange enigma of a man, setting into motion a friendship that would lead to the creation of the "best worst movie of all time," 2003's "The Room."

For those unaware of Tommy Wiseau and "The Room," odds are "The Disaster Artist" is not the film for you. Its inside jokes and fan-pleasing structure are wholly apparent throughout, though I'd admittedly love to hear the perspectives of people completely unassociated with the source material. "The Room" is indeed a garbage fire of a film, filled with tone-deaf performances, baffling scenes and atrocious post-production.

Its producer, writer, director and star, Tommy Wiseau, is equally bizarre in real life. His face resembles that of melted, flesh-toned candlewax, while his long black mane suggests he conditions his hair each morning with oil seepages from the Keystone Pipeline. His facial expressions and vocal cadence are as if he simultaneously injected Novocain into his cheek and heroin into his arm, while his social interactions leave much to be desired. He's extremely secretive, refusing to reveal his origin (he claims he's from New Orleans, which sounds more like "Noorlands" coming from him), his age (he claims he's the same age as Greg, which is 19) or the source of his bottomless income ("The Room" is rumored to have cost about $6 million to produce).

Through the script and Franco's phenomenal performance, Wiseau's persona is communicated to the audience as a combination of inexplicable eccentricities, blatant insecurities and tortured creative genius. The latter is where I found the most fault in this very funny and otherwise enjoyable crowd-pleaser. While I appreciate the movie's overarching sentiment of never being afraid to express one's self freely and dive into the public's critical eye through personal art, "The Disaster Artist" weaves and dodges certain topics that would have resulted in a far more interesting picture. Sure, we get extremely amusing recreations of a haphazard film production where Wiseau clearly has no idea what he's doing. Sure, we get tiny glimpses into Wiseau's psyche that reveal deeper layers of crippling self-doubt and low self-esteem masked by obnoxious bravado. Sure, we get a final scene in which the movie's premiere is met with jeers and laughter, prompting Tommy to act as if he intended "The Room" to be a comedy all along.

But what "The Disaster Artist" is missing, ultimately, is the more damning material about "The Room" and its creator. I'm perhaps a tad too biased in these regards, as I know people who have personally been offended and mistreated by Tommy Wiseau during special showings of "The Room" in various theaters.

I have also witnessed the transformation of "The Room's" cult following firsthand -- what was at first an enjoyable communal experience that pokes fun at a very bad movie has become an exercise in ugly misogynistic exertion. Pop your head into a midnight showing of "The Room" and you'll hear a constant dull roar of men yelling at the screen, with words like "Bitch" and "Whore" being hurled at the screen as often as plastic spoons are (a ghastly tradition that makes movie theater employees want to kill themselves). At a recent screening I briefly visited, a man was standing up, shirtless, swinging his t-shirt above his head while howling at the screen.

This all occurs, mind you, during a movie where Wiseau writes himself as a character who can do no wrong, betrayed by a woman who is characterized solely as an ungrateful cheat, a bitch, and a tramp (words that pop up often in the script itself). The movie is a sad, embarrassing affair that showcases its author's very worst morals, which I have been told translate into Tommy's personal interactions with women. In fact, multiple people who have met Tommy have told me they are shocked that nothing has emerged about Wiseau during the recent reckoning of sexually abusive men in Hollywood.

These predispositions about "The Room," and how this translates into "The Disaster Artist," are what I find both fascinating and frustrating about the film. There are two occasions in the film where Tommy expresses his intent to make "real American movie." On the second instance, production is filming the movie's very uncomfortable sex scene where Tommy insists on showing his ass while gyrating atop actress Juliette Danielle (Ari Graynor), with nothing but a sock over his penis. Soon into the scene, Wiseau points to a mole on the actress's left shoulder. "What is that? That's disgusting!" Tommy yells, to which she replies, "It's my body." Tommy continues to insist that it's disgusting and should be covered up with makeup, claiming that this is an "American movie" and that she "needs to look sexy."

I've thought about this scene a lot when considering "The Disaster Artist," because it's the only true occasion where the film dips into more critical material about the man it ultimately ends up celebrating. This is an extremely entertaining film with loads of laughs, a sharp script and great performances, but I can't shake the icky feelings that come with its many hypocrisies and contradictions. It praises the existence of a film that is blatantly misogynistic and gross, and skirts by the uglier elements of Wiseau by painting him as some sort of misunderstood genius.

Considering the undertones of masculine toxicity that run rampant in "The Room," Wiseau did create the "American Movie" he always wanted to make, but for all the wrong reasons. "The Disaster Artist" fails to recognize this and, as a result, a perfectly adequate film is squandered by the missed shots it never even took in the first place.



Tommy Wiseau :: James Franco
Greg Sestero :: Dave Franco
Sandy Schklair :: Seth Rogen
Dan Janjigian :: Zac Efron
Amber :: Alison Brie
Raphael Smadja :: Paul Scheer
Bill Meur :: Hannibal Buress
Actor Friend :: Jerrod Carmichael
Himself :: Bryan Cranston
Bobbi :: Zoey Deutch
Kyle Vogt :: Nathan Fielder
Juliette Danielle :: Ari Graynor
Jean Shelton :: Melanie Griffith
Philip Haldiman :: Josh Hutcherson
Peter :: Jason Mantzoukas
Sid :: Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Mrs. Sestero :: Megan Mullally
Iris Burton :: Sharon Stone
Carolyn Minnott :: Jacki Weaver
Scott Holmes :: Andrew Santino
Robyn Paris :: June Raphael
Bonnita Boudreau :: Sugar Beard


Director :: James Franco
Screenwriter :: Scott Neustadter
Screenwriter :: Michael Weber
Producer :: James Franco
Producer :: Evan Goldberg
Producer :: Vince Jolivette
Producer :: Seth Rogen
Producer :: James Weaver
Executive Producer :: Kelli Konop
Executive Producer :: Alex McAtee
Executive Producer :: John Middleton
Executive Producer :: Hans Ritter
Executive Producer :: Nathan Kahane
Executive Producer :: Joe Drake
Executive Producer :: Erin Westerman
Cinematographer :: Brandon Trost
Film Editor :: Stacey Schroeder
Original Music :: Dave Porter
Production Design :: Chris Spellman
Costume Designer :: Brenda Abbandandolo
Casting :: Rich Delia