The Surprising Humanity of James Franco’s ‘The Disaster Artist’

The Disaster Artist was one of the best and, surprisingly, most well-balanced movies I’ve seen in awhile. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly encourage you to—but only after you watch The Room first. The Disaster Artist is about aspiring filmmaker Tommy Wiseau and his efforts to make a movie called, The Room, which was once called “the greatest bad movie ever made.”

The Room has a lame plot and absolutely horrible acting, which is why it’s also been called “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” Half of the movie just doesn’t make sense, and there are random scenes and characters thrown in, along with some very uncomfortable and exaggerated sex scenes. The Room is so awful that it’s laughable. And I’m not the only one who thinks so—it grossed just $1,800 when it premiered in 2003. But since then, it’s become a cult classic with fans lauding writer, director, and star Tommy Wiseau for his terrible movie.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Disaster Artist was such a great movie that it’s already been nominated for two Golden Globes, and it has a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has a stellar cast, including James and Dave Franco as well as Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Kate Upton, and Zac Efron. I was quite impressed with James Franco’s spot-on impersonation of Tommy Wiseau’s thick, unusual accent and mannerisms, and the costumes and sets were identical to The Room—they show scenes side-by-side during the credits and even most of the lines match perfectly. But it wasn’t the amazing cast and accuracy that got this movie such high ratings—it was the touching respect shown for Tommy Wiseau.

The Room was absolutely awful, plain and simple. The Disaster Artist could have easily torn Tommy Wiseau apart and made fun of him the entire time, but instead they took the high road and made The Disaster Artist a kind of tribute to Wiseau. Sure, there were plenty of scenes that made fun of his acting skills and his odd behavior, but it also portrayed him as human—losing his temper and getting emotional when he was hurt. It showed how much he valued his friendship with Greg (played by Dave Franco) and how much he supported him (in real life, the two are still best friends today). It showed how proud he was of his “masterpiece” and how devastated he was when it wasn’t well received. Instead of just being a slapstick comedy or a spoof, The Disaster Artist had depth and meaning, and it made it more relatable and engaging.

The main reason that The Disaster Artist evokes such respect for Wiseau is because director and star James Franco relates to him; Franco even wants Wiseau to accompany him to the Golden Globes. Wiseau created The Room because he couldn’t get a break in Hollywood, and Franco knows that struggle well. In an interview, Franco said of The Disaster Artist, “We were telling this weirdo story but, at the same time, we were kind of telling our story… We treat Tommy and Greg sympathetically, and in telling their story, we really are trying to tell the story of every dreamer.”

That’s what makes The Disaster Artist so great—even if you think Wiseau is crazy or weird, you can still relate to him. Many critics picked up on this, and one wrote, “Wiseau also makes a pretty good avatar for Franco himself: a mercurial, relentless performer whose ambition encompasses a thrilling willingness to crash and burn. And it’s that identification that makes the comedy work here, even at its broadest: Franco kids because he loves. Maybe even admires.”

Even though I laughed my way through The Room and mockingly recite some of the lines, The Disaster Artist made me respect Wiseau and even grow to appreciate what he was trying to do with his movie. Maybe more comedies should take notes from The Disaster Artist and add more human depth to their characters rather than merely poking fun at them; that’s the path to creating a true comedy masterpiece.

Image: New Line Cinema

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