SXSW Review: The Disaster Artist (Work-In-Progress) With Q&A

There’s a chance that some small portion of the population in the United States has never, ever heard of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. It could be possibly that they’re too young, too old, or too cool to have never seen it. Regardless, it’s this diverse group that The Disaster Artist will have the hardest time winning over. Thankfully, due to the talent both in front of and behind the camera, paired with an infectious and delightfully weird tone, that gap could potentially be bridged. Make no mistake about it though, this wasn’t created with the to be a standard commercial success.

For the uninitiated, The Room is one of the most popular cult film of the last 30 years, possibly even surpassing Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Disaster Artist follows the events that lead up to and surround the tumultuous (and now legendary) making of said film. The majority of which is based upon the events covered in the book of the same name, written by Greg Sestero.

Now, initially that may seem like a strange prospect, until you read that James Franco directed the film. Over the last handful of years, the actor has attempted to diversify his work, with numerous goes at writing, directing and producing. It also never hurts when that the film ends up being rather sweet and touching. Defying the odds, or possibly harnessing the inherent insanity, Franco takes it upon his broad shoulders to step into the part of the enigmatic Wiseau. He does so with the same gusto that garnered him with awards attention when he played James Dean years ago. It’s always been testament to his passion in how much he throws himself into projects that pique his interest. Franco succeeds with flying colors, becoming, as well as embracing a true madman in the process.

Taking the easier role of Greg Sestero is Dave Franco, getting to play both a struggling actor and long standing best friend to Wiseau. What could’ve easily been thrown under the bus as simple nepotism ends up a rousing success. Having the Franco’s play off each other is part of the glue that holds it all together. As tone changes ever so slightly and the focus of the movie becomes a little hazy, their constant interplay steadies the ship. After all, sincerity in the face of stupidity rings different when you have family backing you up. Here again is an example of the film’s endless heart and reverence which keeps everything from ever seeming too mean spirited.

Since this is an off kilter Franco-clan production, it would be right to assume his now familiar stable of actors have all joined in on the fun. From Seth Rogen to Jason Mantzoukas, Judd Appatow to Hannibal Burress, they’re all here and then some. The “some” basically consists of a series of cameos that are better off experienced, than spoiled. One actor in particular is entirely characterized by the terrible wig he wears throughout his screen time.

The hardest point of contention, at least in its current state, is reviewing the film itself. Special to SXSW, The Disaster Artist came in the form of a “work-in-progress” cut. There was no indication as to why it was given this designation, apart for possibly nerves or jitters. It went over fantastically with the crowd inside the Paramount, where both Francos and Seth Rogen were on hand. A handful of minor quibbles to plague the picture, such as the tone shift that occurs around the midpoint. The part that stands out the most comes at the vary beginning, wherein a series a series of actors expound upon what Wiseau’s The Room means to them. For this experience, it fit (specially with Wiseau in the building), but may not play the same otherwise.

If there are any complaints to be thrown at The Disaster Artist, then it’s most likely done so by someone who either isn’t a fan of or hasn’t seen The Room. What ends up on the screen is a weirdly captivating story of triumph, failure and ultimately success, just not  in the way most would usually  imagine. Maybe this was Tommy Wiseau’s plan all along: to cement his immortality. The only difference is that in his version, at least as the rumor goes, he would rather Johnny Depp have played him.