At first glance James Franco and Tommy Wiseau have very little in common. Franco is the James Dean-esque actor who has had a successful 20-year long movie career and Wiseau is best known for attaining a monkey’s paw path to fame with the ironic, cult success of The Room. When you look at Franco’s directorial efforts, you begin to see the similarities. Franco’s made a lot of films that most audiences ignored – in fact, it’s fair to say that as a director, Wiseau has been more successful than Franco (prior to The Disaster Artist, at least). Either way, they’re both misfits, of sorts, who pour their blood, sweat and tears into passion projects that are misunderstood or ignored. With The Disaster Artist, Franco uncovers the humanity of a somewhat tragic and mysterious cult figure showing that even the worst movie can have an amazing story behind it.
Synopsis: “When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.”
To fully understand the charm of this film and Franco’s Wiseau, you have to know that feeling of having a dream that feels unobtainable (whether it be in music, film, writing, etc) and have everyone tell you you’re not going to make it happen. That’s where Greg (Dave Franco) finds himself at the beginning of the film. He meets a seemingly fearless Tommy in an acting class and latches on to his brazen confidence. There’s a scene where they do a line reading at a diner that really exemplifies Tommy’s confidence. Where Greg is riddled with self-doubt, Tommy is singularly focused on doing the scene – even in front of a diner full of people. It’s easy to see how a shy 19-year old actor could become enchanted with Wiseau.
It’s a very American story and there’s no one better than the all-American, New Orleans-born Wiseau to be its vessel. The film is framed around Tommy’s attempt to film his movie The Room but is more about his attempt to maintain his friendship with Greg. Franco’s portrayal of Tommy captures a certain socially awkward, pitiable quality. He’s the kind of guy that all his friends always have to say, “Well, that’s just Tommy…” when he’s around new people. That inability to be socially smooth combined with his headstrong confidence is the perfect storm for the comedy (and tragedy) of The Disaster Artist.
Where Franco (as director) really shines is somehow revealing an added dimension of humanity to Wiseau, while still maintaining his air of mystery. The audience ends up feeling like they understand Tommy, despite not knowing where he’s from, where he gets the seemingly endless supply of money or even his real age. A pivotal early scene feature Greg and Tommy in San Francisco reveals that Tommy was in a horrible car accident and was also home alone a lot as a child. When you peel back his bizarre mannerisms you see someone who clearly has some trauma in his past and lives his life not really knowing how to be emotionally available (as shown in his reluctance to reveal any personal information about himself).
Even amongst the many, many laughs of the film there’s a lamentable underpinning to every moment. There are times when the viewer almost feels bad for laughing at Tommy and Greg’s plight, no matter how ludicrous the situation may be. Chasing a dream is a tumultuous, emotionally-trying affair that very few actually have the guts (or ignorance) to undertake.
By the end of the film, Tommy achieves a level of fame (thought not the way he thought he would) and there is something oddly inspiring about seeing his and Greg’s journey. While he wasn’t the most professional or personable individual, he had the drive, grit and determination (and money) to turn a fantasy in to reality – something anyone pursuing a dream will find a real connection with.
The Disaster Artist is in theaters now, check it out and let us know what you thought on Twitter @Official_FAN