James Franco Directs and Stars in the True-Life Tale of the Best Worst Movie Ever.
DIRECTED BY JAMES FRANCO/2017
“It is, like, you know. Human behavior. Strange.”
Few people know less about normal human behavior than the infamous, inimitable Tommy Wiseau. His numerous studded belts, his halting yet slurred speech, and his perpetually wet, overgrown Marilyn-Manson-esque locks are distinctively more cryptid than human. He has the body of a P90X instructor and the face of a thirty-year old who began smoking when he was seven. The man is either completely lacking in self-awareness or possessing a sense of self so ironclad he is impervious to all criticism. In short, Tommy Wiseau is a fascinating character study presented with love to the audience of human history. And yet, there is something painfully relatable in Wiseau’s intensely vulnerable expression of his deepest desire– to be understood.
The Disaster Artist, from James and David Franco, is based on the madness that transpired behind-the-scenes during production of Wiseau’s creative magnum opus, The Room. Wiseau’s co-star and best friend, Greg Sestero, wrote a memoir in 2013 detailing that surreal experience, which now shares its title with Franco’s latest creative endeavor.
The Room is not merely so-bad-it’s-good; it is so bad, it can very nearly pass as carefully crafted satire. And Wiseau, a man who treats revisionist history as an art form, very clearly believes all press is good press.
The Room, originally intended as a slice-of-life drama, is inexplicably bad. Anyone who has ever been born and bothered to participate in the human experience should be aware of just how unnatural much of the story feels, and given that Wiseau wrote and workshopped the script himself, there’s simply no excuse for how synthetic and unrealistic– not to mention just fucking bizarre– these characters and their exchanges feel. Instead, The Room does something nearly transcendent. The Room is not merely so-bad-it’s-good; it is so bad, it can very nearly pass as carefully crafted satire. And Wiseau, a man who treats revisionist history as an art form, very clearly believes all press is good press.
This dichotomy within the source material and within the person that birthed it is treated with a perfect blend of incredulity, scorn, and admiration in the Franco brothers’ project, The Disaster Artist. The story is almost unbelievable, not only to us in the audience but to the characters/persons who lived through it. But at its core, beneath all the agonizingly bad acting and behind the truly baffling man directing it, is a story about people desperate to create something. People desperate to do what they love. Filled with tremendous passion… even, at times, in the absence of talent.
There is a moment during The Disaster Artist in which the cast is taking a lunch break in the midst of another day of borderline hostile work conditions. Greg, the second male lead, asks the middle-aged woman playing the protagonist’s mother-in-law, why she stays on with the project. He asks it politely, carefully even, but the question beneath the question is obvious: the director is crazy, the script is bad, the conditions are awful, and you drive over fifty miles every day to come to set. Why? Why would you do this?
She responds, “The worst day on a movie set is better than the best day anywhere else.” Everyone at the table laughs bitterly and nods in weary agreement.
I’d like to take that line and adjust it ever so slightly.
The worst day making something is better than the best day doing anything else.
I’m a lousy artist. I have a pretty appalling work ethic. I’m a bad actor, clueless director, shoddy performer, serviceable writer. But I would rather spend every single day being bad at something I love, and making something regardless of the end result, than I would doing… anything else. I’ve been attached to and worked on several truly bad projects, of varying levels of professionalism. Back in high school, I even participated in the worst musical of all time. Originally, I’d only signed on because I knew it looked great on college applications, but by the end I was so glad to have done it… even though the source material is legitimately bad. Because making things, sharing those things, doing what you love? Those are truly the greatest, most satisfying things in the world. The things we look back on, if not proudly, then at least with love.
And nothing made from love is ever truly bad.
…Okay, that’s probably crap, but it’s a great sentiment. And it makes me love the Wiseau’s of the world even more.
Go see The Disaster Artist. You will enjoy it even if you haven’t seen the source material. And if you have seen The Room, you’ll leave loving both stories a little bit more.