James Franco celebrates a famous failure in ‘The Disaster Artist’

James Franco as Tommy Wiseau as Johnny.
Photo: A24 / Courtesy

Three stars

The Disaster Artist James Franco, Dave Franco, Alison Brie. Directed by James Franco. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.

Tommy Wiseau’s only feature film, 2003’s The Room, is notoriously one of the worst movies ever made (or one of the best bad movies ever made, depending on how you look at it), while James Franco is a celebrity with starring roles in mainstream Hollywood movies and numerous award nominations. But Wiseau and Franco are kindred spirits in their willingness to put themselves out there, to look foolish in the pursuit of art, and Franco’s film about the making of The Room is more of a loving tribute than an exposé.

Based on the memoir by Wiseau’s friend and The Room star Greg Sestero, The Disaster Artist stars Franco as Tommy and his brother Dave Franco as Greg, who meets Tommy in an acting class in San Francisco in 1998. Greg is a 19-year-old with all-American good looks, while Tommy is a craggy-looking weirdo of indeterminate age and national origin, but they connect over their mutual dreams of stardom. Soon they’re moving together to LA, where they decide to take control of their careers by making a movie of their own (financed by Tommy’s mysterious, seemingly endless personal fortune).

James Franco gives a deeply committed performance as Tommy, nailing the accent, mannerisms and almost alien demeanor, and the movie plays like an extended remix, meticulously re-creating some of the most famously awkward and ridiculous moments from The Room. It’s hard to say what value Disaster has for people unfamiliar with The Room, who may wonder what the big deal is about this mildly affecting story of friendship among misfits, but Franco packs the cast with enough comedy ringers (including Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and many more) to make the movie consistently amusing. It might not be as amusing as discovering the mind-boggling awfulness of The Room for the first time, but it’s a decent intro to the madness.

Tags: Film
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