The Hippo


Jul 19, 2019








The Disaster Artist (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

 A man of indeterminate age, national origin and personal wealth makes what has come to be delightfully regarded as the worst movie in modern times in The Disaster Artist, which might be the funniest movie I’ve seen in 2017.

Or maybe in the last few years. I can’t remember the last time I was in a theater where people laughed so much and so hard. This is the kind of laughter that is almost embarrassing to do in a public place, the laughter equivalent of the ugly cry. It probably says unflattering things about me as a person, what I laughed at and how hard I laughed, but, boy, did it feel good.
In late 1990s San Francisco, Greg (Dave Franco) timidly attempts to learn to act. He can take some comfort in the fact that however bad his lack of emotion is it is not as arrestingly terrible as the E-Mo-Ting! from acting classmate Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Tommy has very black, long hair and an accent that does not fit with his claim to be from New Orleans (Is there a New Orleans, Albania?). When asked how old he is, he says he’s “your age” to the 19-year-old Greg despite appearing to be maybe twice that. He has apartments in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, which even when this movie begins is not cheap, despite having no apparent occupation.
Greg’s mom (Megan Mullally) is not so impressed when Greg announces he and Tommy are moving to Los Angeles to make it in Hollywood, but at first things look promising for Greg — he gets an agent, we hear he read for a role on Gilmore Girls. He even gets a girlfriend (Alison Brie). But Tommy, not surprisingly, does not have even that luck. I wish we could make our own movie, Greg says. Tommy instantly latches on to this as The Idea.
Have you seen The Room? I have not. I have vague memories of reading about the movie and its strange billboard. And I recently watched both the Honest Trailer and the CinemaSins videos about The Room. Even without having seen the movie, you can understand both from talking-head interviews at this movie’s beginning and near flawless recreations of the movie’s scenes (as seen at the end of The Disaster Artist, which shows real and recreated scenes side by side; definitely worth staying for) what a rare gem of a terrible movie it is. I don’t think this guy has ever even seen a movie before, a crew member says of Tommy at one point in this movie. This is exactly how the scenes play — as the creation of a man who has not even a passing understanding of storytelling or visuals or believably American culture. 
And yet, as The Disaster Artist tells it, The Room is the definition of a passion project. Misguided passion, perhaps, but a movie with grand aspirations, as this movie tells it. And The Disaster Artist, to its credit, both laughs at the misguidedness and admires the passion. Tommy is told he looks like a villain, but this movie doesn’t make him a villain. It makes him the kind of person who charges ahead and does crazy things and somehow has the money to pay for it. If he had talent, he’d be called a genius (a weird, difficult genius, probably). He’s not, though, so The Disaster Artist just stands back and admires his moxy.
James Franco gives a fun performance, the kind of performance that he, a guy who has crafted an image that is a bit wackadoodle himself, can really sell. What makes his scenes with the at-times awed/at-times shocked Greg even better is that you sense the Francos are perpetually on the edge of cracking each other up. The affection of their Tommy and Greg duo feels real, I suspect in part because there’s real affection between the real-life Franco brothers.
Once we move to the scenes of the movie being made, this sense of giddiness extends to those playing cast and crew (including Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Jason Mantzoukas, Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron, to name a few of the many people who appear to be just psyched to be here). Everybody seems to be having an absolute blast and that energy spills out into the audience. A
Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity, according to the MPAA. Directed by James Franco with a screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (based on the book — sweet fancy Amazon, there’s a book!?! — of the same name by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell), The Disaster Artist is an hour and 44 minutes long and distributed by A24. 

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