There will be spoilers for The Disaster Artist.
Even if you hadn’t heard of The Room before, it has become almost impossible to not have heard of it now – all thanks to James Franco and The Disaster Artist.
Here’s my hot-take of the week: Franco’s The Disaster Artist is 2017’s La La Land. But you’re going to have to bear with me before you go WTF.
Sidenote, in case you still don’t know, The Room is the magnum opus of Tommy Wiseau, a man who is as enigmatic as his skin is pale and his hair shiny. It is supposed to be a tale of betrayal, recounting the terrible fate that befalls Johnny, an all-American hero.
The Disaster Artist – based on the 2013 book by Greg Sestero of the same name – explores how this disaster of a movie was made. It’s an idea that, in theory, shouldn’t work. If the movie is so bad, why should we care about it?
Well, in the words of the internet, The Room such a bad movie that it’s actually really amazing. It has spawned a cult following that holds special screenings quite often and there are plastic spoons involved.
When the teaser trailer for The Disaster Artist first dropped, everybody was shocked and excited. In it, we saw Franco re-create the most famous scene from The Room – the “I Did Not Hit Her” monologue. Watching the movie, you’d think it was a rather straightforward scene to shoot, but the teaser shows it to be otherwise.
The movie manages to deliver the humor that was promised in the teaser and then some. Wiseau’s story is weirdly sentimental and even motivational. He is a strange man and Franco does a pretty good job impersonating him – down to his weird laugh.
While the movie is, in essence, about Sestero (who plays Mark in The Room) and Wiseau’s attempts at making it big in Hollywood, it is also about the movie industry itself. In a twisted, messed up, but ultimately realistic sort of way.
As I said, I think The Disaster Artist is 2017’s La La Land. When it came out last year, some people had criticized La La Land for being a self-congratulating and uncritical representation of Hollywood. Its message that anyone could make it in Hollywood if only they believed in themselves was sort of shallow and probably unrealistic.
If anything, that message only holds with the caveat that you have to be good looking. I don’t want to insult Mia’s (Emma Stone) acting skills or anything, but everybody in that movie was just so beautiful that it made sense for them to make it after a while.
The Disaster Artist is a distorted mirror image of La La Land. Here, the message is that it doesn’t matter whether you believe in yourself. Hollywood is an awful place, full of awful people who will never accept you in their ranks unless you fit their preconceived notions.
If confidence was the only thing mattered in Hollywood, then Wiseau would have succeeded immediately. Instead, he suffers while his “babyface” friend Sestero seems to be doing slightly better.
When all hope seems to be lost, however, Wiseau decides to take the matter into his own hands. They’ll just make their own movie and that’ll be what makes them famous. On the surface, it looks like his confidence in himself and his drive are what matter in the end. Except, that’s not necessarily true. After all, let’s not forget that it cost Wiseau six million dollars to produce The Room.
That, I think, is the thematic twist of this tale of success. Sure, Wiseau’s drive and motivation were definitely instrumental in his eventual success, but none of them would have mattered if he didn’t have a penny to his name. If Wiseau were a poor man, no one would have cared about his dreams.
The Disaster Artist seems to end on a happy note, but I think it’s a bit more ambigious than that. While Wiseau seems to accept the fact that his really serious movie ends up being received as a comedy, that conclusion omits the fact that we don’t really know anything about Wiseau. We don’t know his age, where he’s from, or where he got his money from – let alone how he really feels about how his movie was received.
So when I say The Disaster Artist is this year’s La La Land, I mean that they’re about the two sides of the same coin. The latter sees it through rose-tinted glasses, while the former sees it through Wiseau’s permanent sunglasses.
Overall, The Disaster Artist is a must watch, but probably only if you have seen The Room. But if you haven’t watched that yet, you definitely should. With friends, preferably – otherwise it’s kinda unbearable.