A lot of people lie.
But it’s usually just little lies that serve no positive purpose.
Not too many people have the ambition to lie big. If you lie about your name and where you are from, you can make yourself into a different person. If you lie about how talented and skillful you are, you can lie your way into another profession.
Is a man who lies this much just a loathsome liar, or is he a hard-working visionary who is trying to live his dreams by any means necessary? James Franco’s heartfelt comedy “The Disaster Artist” explores these questions.
The story begins at the turn of the century. Young wanna-be actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is taking an acting class in San Francisco. Greg has the looks but he is reticent. What he needs is some bravery and some passion. Fortunately, there is a guy in his acting class who has passion to spare.
Greg introduces himself to a man who calls himself Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco). Tommy is a living mystery. He’s clearly rich but he doesn’t work. He’s clearly from the Soviet block but he steadfastly claims to be from New Orleans. He’s clearly in his 40s but he insists that he’s Greg’s age.
Tommy and Greg share an unquenchable desire to be famous actors and they become best friends. They go to Los Angeles and move in together.
Making it in Hollywood is tough for Tommy. With his long black hair, grizzled features, and thick Slavic accent, Tommy could play bad guys. But he has been lying to himself about being a young All-American boy for so long that he can’t give up now. He decides to write, direct, self-fund, and star in his own movie.
Tommy Wiseau is a real man! And his movie – “The Room” (2003) – is a real disaster.
“The Room” is the story of a banker (played by Wiseau) who is betrayed by his fiancée Lisa. The film is unbelievably terrible. It is a fun intellectual exercise to explore all the different ways it stinks.
The word misogynist is thrown around a lot. Most of the time, the “misogynist” is a chauvinist or a sexist or a regular guy born prior to 1960. Well, Tommy Wiseau was a real misogynist.
The character Lisa is a selfish, heartless, ungrateful vixen. She’s like Eve from Genesis, except with less nuance and fewer positive traits.
Tommy Wiseau viewed women as malevolent succubi who try to separate a man from his pals.
Tommy is a brutally bad actor. But his directing is even worse. “The Room” feels like it was made by an alien who is trying to understand Earth but doesn’t quite get it yet.
There are numerous scenes of guys tossing a football around, but they do it inside, on the roof, and usually from no more than three feet away. Lisa’s mother announces “I definitely have breast cancer” in the first act. But Lisa never so much as asks her about it again. When Lisa wants to get Tommy drunk, they consume heaping glasses of scotch and vodka. Not scotch and then vodka; scotch mixed with vodka, and no ice.
James Franco is very talented. For some reason, though, he seems to have a genuine kinship with Tommy Wiseau. In “The Disaster Artist,” Franco plays Tommy as an off-beat weirdo hero who loves Greg, loves Hollywood, loves America, and is putting it all on the line to make his dreams come true.
The surprise ending of the “The Disaster Artist” is that the real Tommy Wiseau lied his way to the top.
We still don’t know for sure where he grew up, what his real name is, or what crimes he committed to bankroll his movie. But “The Room” has become a cult classic. Tommy Wiseau has gotten even richer from all the midnight screenings of his movie and from selling his own line of Room merchandise. “The Room” made him a celebrity. An ironic celebrity, to be sure, but a celebrity nevertheless.
“The Room” is so bad that it’s good. “The Disaster Artist” is unambiguously good.