James Franco is certifiably one of the most hardworking filmmakers in Hollywood. The first season of The Deuce – a historical TV drama on the US porn industry – has just wrapped on Sky Atlantic. Franco not only stars in the dual role of twins, Vincent and Frankie Martino, he is co-executive producer and also directs two episodes.
Now to the big screen in The Disaster Artist, Franco is co-producer, director and star (as the incurably deluded Tommy Wiseau). The fun doesn’t stop there for Franco. His brother Dave Franco gets to play alongside him as the Greg Sestero (Wiseau’s best friend). And what a hoot of a film it is.
The Disaster Artist is a biographical comedy-drama revolving around the life of filmmaker Tommy Wiseau and the making of the 2003 film The Room – the film infamously regarded as the worst film ever made. One of those ones described as being so bad it’s good. It has gone on to gain cult status.
In 1998, 19-year old Greg meets Tommy in acting class in San Francisco. They establish a friendship and soon move to Hollywood together to realise their dreams. While Greg quickly gets representation, everybody passes on Tommy. He becomes dejected, and increasingly resentful of Hollywood for not appreciating his talent. But this, obviously, is a deluded wannabe actor.
Tommy believes that he’s the greatest actor in the world, while all his acting tutors disagree. He fails to accept his Eastern European accent, while claiming that he’s originally from New Orleans. He wouldn’t disclose his age. Nor would he disclose the source of his wealth. He has no job but maintains two apartments in both San Francisco and Hollywood. And he drives a Mercedes Benz to boot.
When auditions dry up for Greg, he joins Tommy in his resentment of Hollywood. As they bemoan their lack of opportunities Greg says to Tommy, “Why don’t we make our own film?” Little did he know that his seemingly innocuous remark has let the genie out of the bottle. Tommy’s face lights up at the suggestion. Apparently Tommy is the best at anything that he sets his mind to. So he decides to write, produce and direct his own film – titled The Room. Modest estimates put the film’s budget at $6 million – all funded by Tommy. Till today, nobody is any wiser as to his source of wealth.
On the production of The Room, mayhem reigns supreme. To avoid spoilers, this is better left out of the review. But it is hilarious from start to finish. It has to go down in history as one of the most dysfunctional film sets – all borne of Tommy’s congenital megalomania. He believes he’s the equal of Hitchcock – thus the license to humiliate his cast and crew.
Greg – who plays Mark in the film – is both the real life and on-screen ‘limited’ voice of reason that tries to tame Tommy’s wild ego. Yet for all his flaws, Tommy grows on us and we can’t bring ourselves to hate him. The same goes for the cast and crew of The Room. By and large The Disaster Artist is not only very funny, but also warm. It is a film about chasing your dream and having a go no matter what obstacles stand in your way. It is about forging great friendships and all the ups and downs that come with the territory.
James Franco’s performance is uncanny, and sometimes downright creepy, as the gothic Tommy Wiseau. He is so believable he morphs into the man himself. In my humble opinion, Franco should be a dead cert for a best actor Oscar nomination.