I may come back and flesh this review out a bit sometime in the future. For now I'll just give you the broad strokes.
I had been looking forward to this movie since it was announced. I tracked the development with a lot of interest and was really looking forward to it, not necessarily as a fan of The Room but as a fan of films of that ilk.
I'm a big fan of bad movies and cult classics. I'll take an entertaining B horror flick with an original idea over a piece of pretentious Oscar bait any day of the week. I'll gladly take a low budget movie with good writing over a big budget movie who's dialogue serves only as a tool to set up the next car chase. John Carpenter movies the cheesier the better(even (or perhaps especially)Dark Star), anything involving Jim Henson / Frank Oz that wasn't well received, (Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors, Labyrinth) anything involving the effects of Tom Savini (beats the hell out of CGI), anything featuring the acting talents of Bruce Campbell or Jeffrey Combs (though no set has ever been large enough to contain both presences at once); I love movies that don't try to be odd or different but are genuine and authentically unusual, movies that have heart and take chances and never take themselves too seriously. I love a good Best Picture winner every now and then but most of the time I don't want something heavy and thought provoking, I just want to have fun and escape. I'd rather see Chucky than Billy Bibbit on my TV, I know I'll be happier.
I wanna watch movies like Dead Alive (aka Braindead), not the artsier Heavenly Creatures. I prefer Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese to Raging Bull Scorsese. I want Raising Arizona Coen Brothers not No Country for Old Men Coen Brothers. I'll take The Hudsucker Proxy over The Shawshank Redemption. I'd rather watch Troll Hunter than The Deer Hunter. I'd rather rewatch Werner Herzog's appearance in Freaks of Nature (another B horror flick) than rewatch one of his less than uplifting films.
Sure I could sit there and b.s. and talk about auteurs. I could cite Peter Greenaway movies and dissect and analyze and critique and try to make myself seem more intelligent by watching more artsy garbage, films with bland uneventful stories and ambiguous endings.
Camp. Cult classics. Bad movies. That's what I choose to spend my time on today and I don't miss the days when I was younger and insecure when I'd try to see all the award nominated films thinking they were somehow better and buying in to the lie that being in the minority signals good taste, as if a limited release for a movie indicates that it is "real" art and something better than what most theaters are showing. And here we have this very film using that tactic. It demands to be taken seriously. The masses don't have access to but the masses wouldn't understand it. Good taste is in short supply and or so the exclusivity would suggest. This isn't James Franco staring in something goofy with his Hollywood friends, this is him giving it his all and trying to do something more dignified and esteemed. And it's very plain to see that he wants to be taken seriously here. Ironically he is putting this forth as his best work, ironically portraying a real life person who's creation was never to be taken seriously or given the regard he wanted his work to receive. And I just have to say, I don't see a performance that merits the praise that Franco thinks he is due. I think that Franco's expectations of critical recognition is as delusional as the expectations the real Tommy Wiseau had when believing that his creation, the film The Room was this grand work of art.
That film did not receive the accolades Wiseau assumed were its due. It was mocked. It was declared unintentionally funny and clever by accident. .
The Disaster Artist doesn't outright mock the Tommy Wiseau. It celebrates his desire to create The Room and to have an impact in Hollywood despite unflinching rejection. And James Franco stated from the start and throughout the marketing of the film during its release that he felt connected to Wiseau and related to his plight.
And because I love bad film and cult classics I wanted so much to like this homage to one of the worst films ever.
So many reviews make the same observation their main focus . The exclusive release of the film and Franco's marketing and publicity stunts that involve him staying in character as if he is setting The Disaster Artist apart from the rest of his body of work, it's all built to foster this talk of critical acclaim for his performance.
And am not seeing it at all. I started to have doubts when I first saw the trailer and when I saw the actual film my fears were confirmed. Franco just can't pull it off. His accent is not believable. Tommy Wiseau I'm sure is not easy to imitate, Franco had his work cut out for him, but for me he just did not get the job done. I did not find him believable or convincing. At no point in the film was I not fully aware that I was watching James Franco wearing prosthetic makeup and struggling to replicate Wiseau's odd accent and mannerisms.
People want to draw a comparison between this and Ed Wood. This is not Ed Wood. This contains absolutely none of the elements that were found in that film. Ed Wood was touching and moving. The Disaster Artist is not moving in the least. Ed Wood harbors a secret and shares the secret obsession that he hides from the world with us audience. He forms a bond with the viewer when he does that. We learn about who he really is and with Tommy Wiseau we still know essentially nothing. Whatever secrets the real Tommy Wiseau keeps from the world, none of those secrets are shared with the audience of The Disaster Artist. We aren't opened up to or given anything personal that would give us cause to feel closeness with or sympathy for this bad director.
There was an Academy Award winning performance in Ed Wood. There is no award winning performance here. Martin Landau WAS Bela Lugosi. It was one of the most believable and memorable performances I have ever seen and likely ever will see. I still remember a friend being upset that Samuel L. Jackson didn't win the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Pulp Ficiton which was the fan favorite choice for the award. I remember sitting next to him in class and saying to him "Have you seen Ed Wood?" Catchphrases and snappy Tarantino dialogue might appeal to movie goers, but if you are talking about the actual art, the performance, the skill, ACTING, Martin Landau was perfection. The Disaster Artist has no Bela Lugosi nor its own Martin Laudau. Nothing against the younger Franco, but Dave Franco wasn't portraying someone with Lugosi's level of character or someone with that much personality. He plays Greg Sistero who is your everyday average man. Dave Franco does fine that role just doesn't allow for a whole lot of flair or much of a personal touch. It just isn't a role that allowed for any kind of greatness.
James Franco's role did however allow for greatness, he just wasn't able to achieve it. Johnny Depp was simply terrific as Ed Wood. Every bit of empathy for Wood that Tim Burton wanted the audience to feel was there because Depp portrayed him as so incredibly lovable. We wanted him to be treated better, for him to find success in film and in life as well. We wanted him to be loved and were made to feel he deserved better than he was treated. When Wood meets his second love, after losing his first love for the secret he shared with us but could not with his partner, and where we accepted him and his friends accepted him but his girl did not, that arrival of a woman who loves him knowing everything it is satisfying. It gives all the sense of fulfillment that we know is not coming via any celebration of his work.
We care more deeply than just wishing him professional success. We smile because he finds love and although we see his professional skill may be lacking we know that his heart is not lacking. He deserves happiness and he finds it and we are fulfilled.
We never make friends with Wiseau the way we made friends with Ed Wood because the facts just don't allow for a friendship. There is no trust or opening up and sharing with the audience. The real Tommy Wiseau has kept his origin a secret, the source of his money a secret, we know virtually nothing about him. And maybe that is the reason that The Disaster Artist lacks any real passion. How much can we feel for a person that we never really get to know, someone who never tells us the truth about who he is? How connected are we supposed to feel to someone who tries to keep the things that define him from us?
Perhaps if Tommy Wiseau comes to write a book and really open up and tell people where the 6 million dollars that financed The Room came from, maybe THAT would have been the time to make this movie. Maybe if he ever tells us what country he came from and what his life had been like and what hardships (if any) he had endured, maybe then we'll be given a true story worth listening to and maybe losing ourselves in for a little while. As it is we are left with nothing but a tale that is shallow, superficial, fluff, and meaningless. He wants to be famous, people tell him he never will be, and so he makes his own movie. We never learn anything personal about the main character and as a result we don't know if he's done anything to earn those things. Would we like him if we knew him? Would we want that same dream for him that he wants for himself? The film tells us nothing special, gives nothing but a superficial summary of events and simply changes the angle of the camera that was on the set of The Room It gave no more insight into their lives.
Reading a small article on Wiseau and/or The Room would give no less perspective that this unrevealing empty film.
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