There’s something about a bad movie that just drags you in, isn’t there? It’s like a car crash; you don’t want to look but you can’t take your eyes off it. I have to admit that Mama Mia is one of my least favourite films. I genuinely believe that it has no redeeming features… well maybe with the slight exception of Julie Walters but she’d be worth watching in anything. I don’t get why people love it so much. None of the cast have chemistry together, the singing is so unpredictable, the dancing is laughable, and Phyllida Lloyd clearly has no idea how to direct anything that isn’t on a stage. Then there’s the basics like the boring and ridiculous story which is super difficult to give a shit about. In my second year of university I went camping with some of my friends and for the entire journey to the Lake District we listened to the soundtrack of this film and I was desperate to beat myself over the head with the tent mallet. Yet, every so often I get the terrible urge to watch Mama Mia even though I know I’ll have a dreadful time. It’s not quite one of those films I would describe as being “so bad it’s good” but it all adds up to the same thing. There’s something comforting and wonderful about a film that is that bad. It is entirely possible to find some sort of perverse pleasure in indulging in something you hate and something that you know is terrible. It can become something of an obsession. Something that I know more than a little bit about.
Recently I rewatched The Room and ever since I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. For the last few weeks/months, my work friend and I have been continuously quoting lines from Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece. I’ll be honest, we think it’s fucking hilarious but the rest of the people we work with hate us for it. Mainly because they have absolutely no idea what we’re going on about. Yep, apparently in 2018 there are still some people who have never watched The Room. Unlike Mama Mia, The Room has transcended its nature of being a bad film to be something truly magical. It is the perfect terrible film, which, in turn, has made it the perfect film. It is comedy gold but made with the intention to everything but funny. It is precisely this reason that has allowed The Room to find its cult status. The film was made to be a serious and well-made piece of cinema and everything is so sincere. It’s just that everything also happens to be really bad. It has a truly abysmal script, the acting is horrendous, and the way it is shot is insane. It doesn’t make any sense.
Yet, it makes perfect sense, which is why the film is continually played to packed out midnight screenings all over America. There is a level of admiration for this film that a lot of classic pieces of cinema don’t often get to experience. And it’s not just the film itself but the process behind making it. There was so much secrecy surrounding Tommy Wiseau himself and how he managed to scrape together the $6 million to make his debut film. It has captured people’s attention, including James Franco. Franco has become so taken with Tommy Wiseau and his film that he has adapted the book, written by Wiseau’s friend and The Room co-star Greg Sestero, that offers a look behind the scenes of The Room. Franco, who is also directing the film, takes centre stage as Tommy himself whilst his young brother Dave Franco stands in as Greg. Franco brings together some of his long-time collaborators like Seth Rogen and a long list of impressive celebrity names to tell the story of the making of this film.
The Disaster Artist tells the story of 19 year old Greg who is desperate to be an actor but lacks both the confidence and the skill to stand out. Confidence is something not lacking in Tommy Wiseau a mysterious man Greg meets during an acting class. Greg is instantly impressed by Tommy’s on stage presence and the two become partners. They move from San Francisco to LA but never manage to make it. Desperate to prove that he can be the leading man, Tommy decides to write his own script and cast himself as the main character. The process is a difficult one as the rest of the cast and crew get to grips with Tommy’s unusual style. As filming moves on, Greg begins to sense that the greatness he once saw in Tommy was a mirage and that there might be less to his genius than he’d hoped.
The Disaster Artist is, at its most basic, is a film about making films. It is an exploration of one man’s desire to put his vision on the screen in his own way and prove himself as an actor. Thanks to Franco’s pitch-perfect imitation, it manages to capture the craziness that is tied up with Tommy Wiseau’s mysterious persona but also, quite refreshingly, manages to humanise him slightly. Wiseau has always attempted to create a bit of a mystique about him and has never been completely upfront about his backstory. He insists that his Eastern European accent is, in fact, something he gained growing up in New Orleans and is never keen to reveal his true age. Anyone who has seen Wiseau in interviews or during appearances will know he’s an eccentric individual but Franco never uses him as the butt of the joke. The Disaster Artist is a surprisingly sensitive portrayal of Tommy’s battle with rejection and his steadfast belief that he has something new and brilliant to offer Hollywood.
I’ve seen a fair amount of reviews suggesting that you don’t need to have seen The Room in order to watch The Disaster Artist. I guess, technically, you don’t but I don’t think you’d have the same appreciation for it. Yes, it tells the story of two men and their failed attempt to make a great film. However, it is a film that genuinely adores the film at its core and the man who made it. There is a great deal of respect for The Room, its creators, and its fans that I think you’d be missing out if you went in blind. Scenes have been lovingly recreated and everything is as close to the original as possible. Whilst the film is funny, it is not funny at the expense of Wiseau or his creation. There is a huge amount of respect on show here. It’s not necessarily as memorable an experience as watching The Room for the first time but The Disaster Artist is a fantastic film that brings to the big screen a story that many would have dismissed as being unimportant.