‘The Disaster Artist’ is James Franco at the top of his game

The definition of disaster is as follows: a sudden event, such as an accident or natural catastrophe, causing great damage or loss of life. Whoever built this word obviously hadn’t met Tommy Wiseau, because he rearranged the meaning of it.

The Disaster Artist is about one man’s improbable run from weird obscurity to filmmaker, and all the people who were affected along the way. Like its lead character, an imperfect film, but one that is endlessly interesting.

Sure, Wiseau (James Franco) had a dream, but few people really knew what it was. A mysterious loner banging around Hollywood with too much money and time on his hands, carrying an accent that sounded like a mix tape combining European and Gypsy vibes, Tommy was a character in his own ongoing movie. When we first meet him, he’s flopping around on a small stage, chewing every ounce of scenery possible during an acting class. When he finds a fellow struggling actor in Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), an unlikely friendship forms, leading to their film, the 2003 cult classic entitled The Room.

If there was a guy who could bring this B-side American dream tale to life, it was Franco, a creative giant at the top of his game. An everyman in make believe land at the moment, Franco has starred in over 140 films, directed 26 projects, and currently plays twins in the HBO series, The Deuce. Oh, he is also stacking up college degrees. Not all of Franco’s acting work is stellar, but he’s always moving. This movie seems to have slowed him down-and for good reason. What Franco manages to do with The Disaster Artist is turn Wiseau’s oddball tale into a hilarious underdog story. Imagine Rocky Balboa, if he was punching himself.

The Room was the epitome of a disastrous (no pun intended) shoot, with Wiseau slinging money-and attitude-left and right at a crew that had no idea who they were dealing with. This is the most fascinating part of the story, seeing a guy with no experience create something that seemed mad and doomed, but turned out to be an experience with endless joy. These days, The Room screens at midnight several times a year in movie theaters around the country. After debuting in one theater back in 2003, making a little over a thousand dollars on a near six million dollar budget, the film has reached cult status today.

If you left the film wondering what led to its formation, The Disaster Artist has you covered. Is the movie great? As a whole, the answer is no, but Franco deserves recognition for his work as Wiseau.

With no offense to his gritty portrayal of Aron Ralston in 127 Hours, this is Franco’s greatest achievement as an actor. Equal parts charismatic and heartbreaking, he makes Wiseau hard to keep your off of during the 105 minute film. When Wiseau is trashing sets and complaining about a woman’s body before a sex scene, you’ll shake your head and just laugh. He is irresistible, and that is the charm in Franco’s go for broke performance. Just stay until the end credits and see how close the real production of The Room matches up with Franco’s rendition. It’s freakishly similar.

The younger Franco doesn’t fare as well, often rendering Greg whiny, pretentious, and nothing near engaging. The suffering friend of an artist of chaos, there was juice to be found in the man’s personality, but Dave Franco left me with no impression other than how good his brother was. This cripples the film’s chances of resonating on a complete level. Seth Rogen puts in fine work but doesn’t stretch much from his skill set playing one of the set hands who dealt with Tommy’s craziness, and there are some great cameos from the likes of Zac Efron in the film.

The film isn’t perfect. You’ll get bored of The Disaster Artist at times (the running time feels longer), and the pacing and tone of the film flutter at times. You may check your watch to see if the end is near from time to time.

Overall, Franco does a good job behind the camera, but saves his best work for in front of it. He brings Tommy Wiseau to life, and doesn’t pull a punch in depicting a chaotic guy who made a terrible movie that got a whole lot of love. You needed a unique talent to bring that together, and Franco gives an impressive performance that will make you wonder if the actor should keep slowing down in order to produce such work. He gave Wiseau a heart, and that makes the film a worthwhile adventure.

Go check it out. Bring a weird friend with you.

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