James Franco has a very polarizing style, not just of movie-making, but of lifestyle. This is a guy who will attend a laundry list of colleges, appear on a daytime soap opera, and make an comedy about North Korea an international incident. You can’t deny however that there is something inherently fascinating and attention grabbing about him. His record as a director is spotty at best, but he has proven capable of giving really good performances. In the end, you never know what you’re going to expect from this guy, so when I walked into “The Disaster Artist” I was very much intrigued.
Let’s start with a little perspective; this movie is about the famously disastrous feature film “The Room” starring possible Alien Tommy Wiseau. Now I wouldn’t say seeing the room is necessarily required viewing for this particular film, but it would certainly give you an appreciation of the characters and events that you might not get otherwise. That being said, this movie has the weight to stand on its own in more ways than one, and in the end it all comes back to the man behind the madness, Mr. Harry Osborn–I mean, James Franco.
The thing this movie does very well is it gets you invested in the main characters right off the bat. Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is just an aspiring actor who doesn’t seem to have much natural talent, and he runs into a man of questionable origins in the form of Tommy Wiseau, who is attending the same acting class as him. Now, I will warn you, it does take a few minutes to adjust to James Franco’s strange accent, but soon enough you’ll get used to it, and in the end, it serves the character well. After the meet, it is a straight shot to Los Angeles where the two new friends make a run at becoming actors. That is the general setup for the real meat of the film, and to avoid serious spoilers I won’t address every plot-point, but I’ll make my feelings known.
This is by far the most well done James Franco movie I have ever seen, and while that admittedly isn’t saying a whole lot, it is still saying something. The story and the way the characters are presented are so genuine and done with such care that you find yourself identifying with everyone in the movie. The star studded cast all do their jobs well and in the end the movie is more a character study of Tommy Wiseau and the relationships he builds with the people around. It is also a testament to the directing and storytelling of Mr. Franco that we find ourselves feeling sympathy for Tommy even though he is a reprehensible weirdo at times. The mark of a really well done story is that you understand why characters are doing what they’re doing, even if they are doing something unfavorable, it gives them more humanity and allows the audience to invest in the story.
I found myself really loving the way the movie making world was presented in this movie. James Franco showed the ability to make a movie that flows very well from scene to scene, and to develop characters and really make you care about them. It is very encouraging because he has shown clear growth as a director and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. This was a major victory for him, and I hope to see more of the same from him going forward. There were laughs, there were feels, and most importantly, we gained a new appreciation for one of the most infamous cinematic debacles of all time.