Here’s a film not to watch: “The Disaster Artist.” Directed by and starring James Franco, “The Disaster Artist” was released this past December and had audiences in a newly revived frenzy over the 2003 film “The Room.” Funny and easy to watch, “The Disaster Artist” is a comedy about the infamous “best worst movie,” “The Room,” which has gained a cult following for its distinctly bad acting and nonsensical plot. While the movie may have successfully captured some laughs and was idolized at this year’s awards shows, Franco’s behavior behind the scenes is too appalling to give the movie acclaim.
It would be hard to understand what “The Disaster Artist” is about without understanding the cultural phenomenon that is “The Room,” a movie directed by and starring Tommy Wiseau. What makes “The Room” so hilariously lovable is that it is poorly done, albeit with charm, in every way. The characters have little substance, there is isn’t a clear plot (although there are multiple awkward and random sex scenes), and there were many outrageous lines that seem to go unexplored or cause little reaction among the characters. While the movie is intended to be a serious soap opera– esque film, the bizarre acting, plot and writing only make it a hilarious, dry-humored tease. On top of the intrigue that results from its notably bad content, the main actor, Wiseau, provides a whole other element of curiousness. Claiming to be an all-American guy from New Orleans, Wiseau has a strong accent unlike any Southerner, an eccentric punk style and long black hair. While he claims to be in his 20s, he is quite obviously much older, and how he was able to fund the whole project is another perplexing question that has evoked much interest among followers.
“The Disaster Artist” is about how “The Room” came to be, from the friendship between Wiseau and co-star Greg Sestero that eventually lead to the idea to create the movie, to the filming, to its laughter-filled debut. Because the movie and Wiseau have such personality, it is rumored that Franco directed in character, employing Wiseau’s quirky accent and style throughout filming.
With a unique story to work with, it’s clear how “The Disaster Artist” could easily be loved by audiences as well. On the whole, the movie is funny. Even if the viewer doesn’t know much about “The Room” (I had only seen clips before I watched “The Disaster Artist”), the hilarious absurdity of the original movie still comes through. I found myself quoting the movie weeks after, and ended up researching and watching more clips of “The Room.”
That said, “The Disaster Artist” really only capitalized off of the greatness of “The Room” and helped the movie reach a more mainstream audience. Personally, I found that “The Disaster Artist” as its own entity was hard to champion; much of my reasoning for this was due to what I found out about Franco after I saw the movie. In my brief moment of becoming a cult follower of “The Room,” I watched a lot of interviews with Wiseau and Franco. I was aware that Franco isn’t known to be the nicest person in Hollywood, but I was shocked to see him be a complete jerk to Wiseau in his interviews about the movie. He would cut Wiseau off mid-sentence and openly make fun of him. For someone who essentially hijacked and greatly profited off of another person’s creative ideas, Franco could have been more respectful to the person who inspired him.
Disappointed by this rude behavior on Franco’s behalf and well aware of his privilege as a male in Hollywood, I wasn’t shocked when I heard about the sexual misconduct he has been accused of by multiple women who worked with and for him. At this point, it seems like very few pieces of Hollywood media, film and art are untainted by extremely problematic creators. While it would be nice to separate the art from the artist, I think it is extremely important as a critical viewer in this day and age to evaluate the whole creative process and fight against what is unfair. In that vein, because of Franco’s treatment of women and Wiseau, I cannot say that “The Disaster Artist” is worthy of any praise. Besides, without the unconventional brilliance of Wiseau that inspired the whole movie, “The Disaster Artist” would not have existed.
All in all, “The Room” is quirky, heartwarming in a weird way and unintentionally a laugh fest and I would recommend watching it, as it is the original. On the other hand, in light of Franco’s behavior, I would not recommend watching the “The Disaster Artist.” Wiseau famously shouts in “The Room” over his love for his fiancée, “Lisa, you’re tearing me apart!” I think it’s fair to say, “James Franco, you’re tearing us all apart”—and not in a good way!