Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so the saying goes and in Hollywood there have been many who have taken the path well-walked in taking on a real-life person to help bring their story to life. Recently, Jim Carrey has been back in the spotlight after the documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond came to Netflix and showcased his long-talked-about total immersion into the role of Andy Kaufman in 1999 biopic Man on the Moon and all of the “nonsense” that happened on-set whilst Jim Carrey became Andy Kaufman, both literally and figuratively. While that movie is its own beast, the similarities between that and James Franco’s The Disaster Artist are easy to see – so much so that Franco, as our film’s “big Hollywood” hero Tommy Wiseau, is possibly the closest anyone has come to giving Carrey a run for his money in the “total immersion” stakes.
The Disaster Artist; dir.: James Franco; USA 2017, 104 minutes. Our Rating: ★★★★½/5
If you don’t know the story of The Disaster Artist and the film it is based around, The Room, stop what you’re doing and correct this immediately for it will make your life so much the better. The Room is the definitive ‘best worst movie ever made’ and has not and will not be equalled by another such is the balance between excruciating and wonderful, ridiculous and smart, madness and wisdom. Shot on a reported budget of $6million, it was the brain-child of Wiseau who along with his best friend Greg Sestero (who wrote the book the film is based on and is played by Dave Franco here) set out to make it big in Hollywood. Just how big they couldn’t yet foresee but it would see both of them and the film live on for over a decade and then some.
Just like La La Land was a musical representation of the “ones who dream”, The Disaster Artist is the comedy version of those outsiders who no matter how big their dreams may be are willing to take the pitfalls and the putdowns to chase their ultimate goal. But to just call it a comedy is to do a disservice to the work of Franco behind the camera and writers Michsel H. Weber and Scott Neustadter as they trifecta form a film both warm, optimistic, beautiful and, yes, funny as hell. As Wiseau, Franco gives the performance of the year and while on paper it may seem a stretch to think he will walk away with anything Oscar-related, such is his command and inhabiting of the role that he would be fully deserving if such an event were to take place.
Dave Franco, too, is superb in his best performance to date as the humbled, fish-out-of-water Sestero who we see grow from quiet sideliner to full-bodied powerhouse, while Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson and more provide brilliant support amongst a sea of cameos (Zac Efron and the “real” Bryan Cranston are stand-outs.)
The legacy of The Room will continue probably long after we’ve all gone from this Earth such is its strange but mesmeric pull; The Disaster Artist is a full-on celebration of chasing your dreams and succeeded when it seems so unlikely. Lead by Franco’s magnificent performance, his film is a wonderful treat that is both supremely entertaining and funny but also as thoughtful and touching as any contender this year. Oh, hai Oscar…