The Disaster Artist tells the story of Greg Sistero (Dave Franco), an aspiring actor who dreams of Hollywood stardom. His whole world changes, however, when he joins forces with the mysterious (and untalented) Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) with the hopes of spurring one another on to fame and fortune. As the two struggle to find work as actors, Tommy soon convinces Greg to make their own film using his script and seemingly unlimited bank account. After countless productions issues, they finally release The Room, one of the most critically-reviled films of all time.
Directed by and starring James Franco, Artist is a hilarious and surprisingly poignant picture of one man’s vision to justify his talents to the world. While The Room may have been labelled the ‘worst film of all time’ by many, the film develops out of a hurricane of chaos with the erratic Wiseau as its center. With the relationship between Sistero and Wiseau serving as the Artist’s emotional core, the decision to cast real-life brothers, James and Dave Franco, opposite one another proves to be an excellent decision. Portraying Sistero as the rational dreamer to Wiseau’s increasingly bizarre antics, there is a natural chemistry between the Francos that translates well in the film.
While both men bring their characters to life with energy and enthusiasm, it’s the elder brother James and his portrayal as Wiseau that holds the film together. Here, James is firing on all cylinders as the misguided filmmaker, exposing the faults of Wiseau’s confusing vision from start to finish. Amazingly though, his performance as not only lampoons the wild and mysterious Wiseau but also reveals his humanity. While the film could have simply chosen to showcase all of his shortcomings, Franco’s portrayal reveals an immense love for Tommy and even an admiration for his sheer, wild creativity. (In fact, this mutual respect is reiterated in a post-credit scene where Franco’s Wiseau and the real Tommy come into contact with one another.)
In The Disaster Artist, Tommy Wiseau is both passionate artist and wildly delusional. As an audience, we’re stunned by his bizarre antics and utter inability to formulate any cohesive directions to his cast and crew. However, at the same time, he also a sympathetic character who clearly needs the bright lights of fame to validate his emotional shortcomings. Wiseau is everyone with a dream of stardom, but also a jarringly self-absorbed enigma.
He’s literally almost everyone and no one at the same time.
As a result, the film becomes both justification of and dissection of the ‘American dream’. Wiseau is a man who is determined to create something for his own recognition yet he simply doesn’t have any sense of restraint (or even common sense). While Artist suggests that Tommy is to be admired for his passion, he is also admonished for his lack of self-control. He believes that the Dream is within reach if he only commits himself yet his primary commitment seems to be to himself. In essence, his desire to be justified outweighs his ability to think and act humbly. As he alienates his friends and film crew, Wiseau blames them for their lack of support and increasingly takes only his own counsel. In doing so, the development of The Room becomes his own personal Tower of Babel, a monument to his own abilities that seems destined to come crashing down around him. Upon the film’s release, his expectation is that he will be lauded with critical praise and public recognition. (He even ensures that The Room fulfills the required screenings for Oscar nominations.) However, when the film is reviled by the public, he’s left feeling broken, viewing himself as a complete failure.Interestingly though, Wiseau’s redemption comes through an act of grace. Whereas The Room is critically hammered for its quality, Greg points out that the joy it brings to the audience is worth the effort. In other words, while the film may be a critical failure, Greg’s words offer a form of redemption for Wiseau. No, The Room would not be destined for Oscar glory but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.
And it’s no different for Wiseau himself.
In essence, Sistero’s words of redemption for the film also offer grace to Wiseau, an agent of his own demise who has tied his own value closely to the success of his film. Demonstrating an almost God-like love of his disturbed friend, Greg assures Tommy that his effort is not at a loss. By reframing the importance of the film from critical praise to laughter and joy, Greg’s words offer new life to Tommy’s heart.
In the end, The Disaster Artist becomes more than just another comedic biopic. Instead, the film takes on a life of its own, infusing generous grace to a man who shot for the moon and missed. Artist proves that even those obsessed with their own fame and success have value and need hope through found only in acts of love and kindness.