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17° & CLOUDY ON THURSDAY 13 DECEMBER IN AUCKLAND
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The Disaster Artist

A bizarre, hilarious and genuinely moving look at the creation of one of the worst films ever made.
By Sarah Ward
December 05, 2017
  shares

The Disaster Artist

A bizarre, hilarious and genuinely moving look at the creation of one of the worst films ever made.
By Sarah Ward
December 05, 2017
  shares

Which movie features multiple terrible sex scenes, a ridiculous plot and way too many spoons? Oh hi The Room. When the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau decided to write, direct, produce, fund and act in his own Hollywood breakthrough flick 14 years ago, he couldn't possibly have predicted the cult fame, plastic cutlery and branded underwear that would follow — although, if you asked him today, he'd probably claim otherwise. After all, he spends one of The Room's DVD extras explaining that yes, you really can play football with your friends while wearing a tuxedo and standing three metres apart. Trust him.

If it sounds like Wiseau lives in his own absurd world, he'd likely be happy with that. In fact, he once told his pal and co-star Greg Sestero that he'd like to have his own planet. Based on Sestero's behind-the-scenes book about The Room's mind-boggling production, The Disaster Artist is the movie that brings Wiseau back down to earth. Directed by and starring a pitch-perfect James Franco, with supporting performances from his brother Dave as well as Seth Rogen, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron and Alison Brie, it's a sidesplittingly funny and thoroughly heart-warming look at the man who unwittingly started a phenomenon. A wild true story about obsessively chasing a dream, finding a friend and yearning to belong, this Ed Wood-style effort will make you want to hurl spoons at the screen with sheer joy.

With limp black tresses and a vaguely European (or is it New Orleanian?) accent, Franco plays Wiseau not as a joke, but as an eager, aspiring talent who'll climb the walls if he has to. When we first see him channelling his inner Brando in a San Francisco acting class, that's literally what he does. Self-conscious and wide-eyed, 19-year-old Sestero (Dave Franco) is drawn to Wiseau's confidence — enough to ignore the concerns of his mother and move to Los Angeles with his clearly middle-aged new buddy. But the film industry doesn't exactly welcome them with open arms, so Wiseau takes their fate into his own hands. Voila, The Room is born.

Much of The Disaster Artist is concerned with revealing how The Room came to be. The now-iconic lines, the stilted performances, the odd non-sequiturs: they're all there, often recreated with shot-for-shot accuracy that'll tear both fans and newcomers apart with laughter. But Franco and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer) are interested in more than just making in-jokes and poking fun at everyone's favourite bad movie. A relatable, genuinely moving and hilarious love letter rather than a lampoon, The Disaster Artist celebrates Wiseau's eccentricity and passion, even when he's sabotaging his own efforts. As such, while there's plenty of comedy, he's never the subject of mockery. When Franco adopts his distinctive mannerisms, it's with sincerity and affection.

It helps that, in a different universe, Franco could've very well lived Wiseau's life. Driven by comparable levels of enthusiasm and determination, the Oscar-nominated actor might be one of Hollywood's biggest stars, but he's had more than his share of missteps along the way – including multiple movies that he's directed and starred in that barely saw the light of day. Whether he's yelling Wiseau's unforgettable dialogue or fixing a crooked stare on his co-stars, Franco's turn as Tommy is his best to date, with authenticity as well as earnestness shining through at every moment. His decision to cast his similarly-excellent sibling as Sestero likewise proves a smart one. Together, the Francos evoke an easy familiarity in a movie that is, at its core, about the bonds of brotherhood.

With The Disaster Artist, Franco has crafted a riotous film about art imitating life, one that should amuse and inspire regardless of whether you're a fan of The Room or have never heard of Wiseau at all. Not only that, but as award season arrives, it might pull in a few shiny statues too. The older Franco has already won a Gotham Award for his performance, and if he collects a few more trophies, don't be surprised to see Wiseau grace the stage with him insisting he knew it'd turn out this way all along. Whatever happens, The Disaster Artist is one of the year's best movies – and features one of the best on-screen uses of '90s dance track 'Rhythm of the Night' as well.

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