The Disaster Artist (2017) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Disaster Artist (2017)

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Before The Room became a midnight sensation, Greg Sestero was one of many in an acting class dreaming of "making it".  Not all paths to the top are filled with inspired success, and Greg's journey meets its maker in the form of the perpetually greasy, eternally enthusiastic, and ethnically questionable Tommy Wiseau.  James Franco directs The Disaster Artist, with the screenplay written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and stars Dave Franco and James Franco.

The first oddity of James Franco's The Disaster Artist comes right at the end.  In split-screen, we watch how James' recreation stacks up against the bizarre-to-the-point-of-untouchable moments in Tommy Wiseau's The Room.  The weirdness comes from James' technically accurate reflections, not perfectly accurate as the odd cadence of Wiseau's film can't be intentionally recreated.  What few synapses that had the urge to fire moved my fingers to write, "Why is this?" in my notes before realizing I had spent the better part of an hour and a half writing only one other note "Dave Franco's getting into this."

My lack of notes in preparation for writing this review of The Disaster Artist might strike some of you as inattention from my part but - let me assure you - aside from that one burst of passion from Dave there was not a single moment of note in The Disaster Artist.  I might be the perfectly wrong person for this film as I've seen The Room more than once (once was enough but friends gotta introduce it to friends and there I was) and read Greg Sestero's entertaining account of The Room's making.  The trick to enduring The Room more than once is not watching it and occupying yourself during the many go-nowhere moments until the staggeringly terrible bits come up.  Those moments ("You're tearing me apart", complimenting a dog, etc.) expose Wiseau's psyche so nakedly that we tend to gloss over how boring the rest of The Room is.

The split-screen comparison makes me wish I was watching The Room instead and boy is this a sentence I wasn't prepared to write.

James' film has none of the awkward, if true, revelations of self that Wiseau's The Room captured nor the "How is this happening?" zest of Sestero's book.  It's a relatively straightforward rags-to-riches story.  That begs the question of how - exactly - did James manage to make a relatively straightforward rags-to-riches story based on The Room of all things?  "Because he can" seems to be the appropriate answer, and it holds weight considering James' choice of directorial projects over the last few years.

He's taken it upon himself to bring the works of Faulkner, Steinbeck, and McCarthy to the big screen without a style - any style - to speak of.  James has the clout so he makes the films, it's as simple as that.  The Disaster Artist's cinematographer, Brandon Trost, is the latest victim of James' anti-style.  Trost works well when he's pushed toward cartoonish extremes like his excellent collaborations with Rob Zombie or the farcical like The Interview (a film I didn't like but looked amazing).  Trost is locked into a steady pace of handcam, longshot, handcam, longshot, handcam, longshot that allows for none of the insanity that made The Room a midnight hit.

The Disaster Artist is, at its core, a tribute to the white male American's ability to fail upward.  The presence of costar Seth Rogen is enough to confirm this, as Rogen's career trajectory has gone from "pessimistic character actor in groundbreaking sitcoms" to "playing himself in whatever my friends are doing this week".  Granted, bits of nothing like The Disaster Artist are mildly preferable to Rogen's own terrible films like Sausage Party, but only because I've reached a mental state where feeling ambivalence is preferable to rage.  To The Room itself - we like to reward men for flaming out, but I don't see midnight tours arranged for screenings of Jennifer Lynch's Boxing Helena.

This is the only moment in The Disaster Artist that shed entertaining insight into why Tommy and Greg would partner together.

So The Disaster Artist plays while doing nothing to engage any of my emotions. James' buddies get to collect paychecks with the bare minimum of performing while his passable Wiseau (which you can see "better" imitations of at your local screening of The Room) meanders from one scene to the next.  Any opportunity James might have had to take the satirical piss out of his own failings crumbles when Alison Brie becomes Greg's girlfriend because Wiseau exists (seriously, she is only interested in Greg because Greg puts up with Wiseau) and The Disaster Artist ends on Wiseau's success having rebranded The Room as a comedy.

Perhaps we're the collective victim of a prank to see just how successful James and company can be while parlaying in the most mediocre films possible.  This is the sort of empty experience that makes me long for the self-destructive antics of Shia LaBeouf, who took the piss out of himself by participating in a satirical song that's more entertaining than anything this crew has done in about a decade.  If me ending this review on a "go support Shia LaBeouf instead" tear sounds disappointing, then you're one step closer to feeling the void I felt watching The Disaster Artist.

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The Disaster Artist (2017)

Directed by James Franco.
Screenplay written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.
Starring Dave Franco and James Franco.

Posted by Andrew

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