The Disaster Artist

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Disaster Artist is heading to won San Sebastian's Golden Shell
"Rather than simply turn Tommy into a laughing stock, Franco teases out the tragicomedy of the man."

Pay a visit to any film festival showing American films and you'll more than likely end up seeing something involving James Franco, one of the most prolific US stars in the business at the moment, whose catalogue of both acting and directing roles continues to grow at such a rate, you begin to wonder whether he might have cloned himself.

UK cinemas, however, tell a different story, with barely any of the films he has helmed making it that far. So The Disaster Artist (due for release in December), with its crowd-pleasing comedy and accessible narrative, comes as something of a pleasant surprise. Its Golden Shell accolade in San Sebastian is likely to give it a further gloss of prestige, and while I can't say I'm onboard with the John Malkovich-led jury on that one, it's certainly an enjoyable, if slight, ride.

Copy picture

The production is The Franco Show, with the star also casting himself in the lead role of Tommy Wiseau, the real-life enigmatic director and star of cult 2003 flop The Room - a labour of love/vanity project depending on your perspective, which, no matter what your perspective, is laughably awful (watch some of its high/lowlights here).

Franco has the most fun he's had in ages as Wiseau, who looks like a cross between early Adam Ant, The Young One's Neil and 90s long-haired Bono and who speaks in a weird drawl that though purporting to come from New Orleans is more of a Brando-inflected mish-mash. Casting his brother Dave as Tommy's long-suffering friend and collaborator Greg Sestero helps to add chemistry to the pairing.

The story picks up when the pair meet at an acting class, where Wiseau is all but chewing the scenery and Greg acting like a piece of it. Somehow, a friendship is born and, after it transpires that the older man has a pad in LA, they embark on their next big adventure. They are certainly an odd couple, "Don't be weird", Tommy tells Greg, in a line that neatly sums up his own lack of self-awareness.

The meat of the film concerns the actual shooting of The Room - including appearances by Alison Brie, Seth Rogen and Jacki Weaver among others - a process that goes on for weeks and highlights both Tommy's ineptitude and his oddly compelling underlying sweetness. Rather than simply turn Tommy into a laughing stock, Franco teases out the tragicomedy of the man, hinting at damage that might have led to him being as he is, while never taking his eye off the comedy ball. Tommy's chief selling point, however, is that he is an eternal optimist - although there is also a suggestion that hopefulness is a lot easier when money is no object, as it isn't for him.

Despite the general fun, there is still a whisper of smugness in the book-ending of the film, which begins with actors, apparently playing themselves, talking about why they wish they'd been on the set of the room, and ends with split screen showing just how well the action from the film has been recreated. This is redeemed by the action's general irrepressible good humour, that always treats Tommy fondly even at its most critical. Oh, and don't be weird, stay to the end of the credits or you'll miss a treat.

Reviewed on: 02 Oct 2017
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The Disaster Artist packshot
The story of the making of the 'Citizen Kane of bad movies', The Room.

Director: James Franco

Writer: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, Greg Sestero, Tom Bissell

Starring: Alison Brie, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Lizzy Caplan, Tommy Wiseau, Bryan Cranston, Zac Efron, Kristen Bell, Dylan Minnette, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Sharon Stone, Adam Scott, Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor

Year: 2017

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

SSFF 2017

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