Movie Review – The Disaster Artist (2017)

“I did not hit her.  It’s bullshit.  I did not hit her.  I did not!  Oh, hi Mark!”

BQB here with a review of the movie about the best, worst movie ever made.

“The Room.”  How to explain it to someone who has never seen it?  Honestly, I’ve never seen it in full myself, but the clips available on YouTube tell me pretty much what I need to know.

In 2003, struggling, wannabe actors Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, finding no luck on the audition circuit, teamed up to produce their own film.  On the surface, a great idea, right?  If no one will give you an opportunity, then create your own.

The result was “The Room” – a tale, in theory, as old as time.  All American guy is in love with the perfect girl.  A trusted friend creates a bitter love triangle.  Tragic circumstances ensue.

Cut, print and collect money and praise, right?  Wrong.  The final result was something that would flunk a remedial high school AV class.

A poorly written script that was adhered to despite obvious problems, plot twists and arcs that went nowhere, overacting, underacting, laughter at inappropriate times, unusual and unnatural dialog and so on.

I could take all day pointing out the flaws, but some of the most discussed:

  • Tommy’s thick Eastern European accent, which in a different setting might be ok, but here his character insists he is an all American guy, born and bred and bleeding the red, white and blue.  His poor delivery, repeating “Hi Mark,” emphasis on 1980s clothing which was a faux pas even in the 1990s.
  • Plots that go nowhere, like his girlfriend Lisa announcing she has breast cancer, then we never hear what happens again.
  • Laughter and weird reactions, like when Tommy laughs at a story about a woman being beaten by a boyfriend to the point she had to go to a hospital.
  • Characters whose relationships are unexplained.  There’s a kid named Denny who just stops by and acts like Tommy is his father figure but how that happened you never know.  Further, there are random characters who show up to explain main points and you have no idea who they are and where they come from.
  • Bad editing.
  • A full on shot of Tommy’s gross ass while he has sex with his girlfriend’s…umm…belly button?
  • Use of green screen and sets when the real thing is available – i.e. building a set of an alley when actual alleys are available.  Using a green screen version of a city scape background when there are tops of tall city buildings that can be used.
  • And so much more!

How did this monstrosity get its start?

As the Franco (James as Tommy and Dave as Greg) brothers tell us, it all began in the late 1990s, when a young, early twenties Greg and an at least middle aged Tommy meet in a San Francisco acting class.

Greg is nervously bombing while Tommy is overacting and exuding way too much confidence, belting out “Stella!” in an antique looking pirate coat that was apparently part of his wardrobe.

Together, these two make an unlikely duo, an old and young man, deciding to move to Hollywood on a whim and live together as roomies as they pursue their acting dreams.  I mean, you can hardly blame Greg’s mother (Megan Mullally) for suspecting some disturbing intentions on Tommy’s part.

When the traditional audition root fails, the duo set out to make their own movie.  Throughout the ordeal, Greg and the cast and crew remain baffled by three questions that are never answered: 1) Hold is Tommy?  2) Where is he originally from? and 3) Where is all the money to fund this movie coming from?

Once the production begins, Tommy spends money like water, buying equipment and racking up unnecessary expenses (building sets that aren’t needed, installing a toilet when a bathroom is available, hiring two separate crews to film the movie on actual film and in HD) and so on.

The movie then chronicles the production.  Actors and crewmates alike question Tommy’s insane decisions.  A script supervisor (Seth Rogen) and other crew try to explain to Tommy why his choices make no sense and why his movie sucks but they grow exasperated as Tommy won’t listen to reason. Worse, he grows increasingly difficult to deal with, lashing out at the cast and crew for petty reasons and growing jealous of Greg’s growing successes outside of the film (a girlfriend and a potential TV gig).

Ultimately, the whole thing is a big mess that cost at least $6 million.  How did Tommy get that money?  No one knows.  If the crew was so fed up with working on a shitty movie, why didn’t they walk off the set?  One can only assume it’s just that hard to find a paying gig in Hollywood, even if the gig stinks.  As the actress playing Lisa’s mother tells her fellow cast mates, “The worst day on the worst movie set is better than the best day in real life.”

What could be learned from all this?  “The Room” sucks, but even so, Tommy has done a better job of making a movie than YOU have because YOU HAVE NEVER MADE A MOVIE! Tommy and Greg tried and put it all on the line.  They made a movie.  It sucked.  But they had a dream and they gave it a shot, lousy as it was.

Ironically, over the years the film gained a cult status and eventually turned a profit.  Screenings have been held all over the world “Rocky Horror Picture Show” style where fans have fun and engage in games based on the dumb things they know will happen in the film.

Critics have panned the film, citing a lack of explanation of Tommy’s background, wealth, history and age but I don’t think they got the point at all.  Tommy, by all accounts, was a mystery man.  He was a man of great wealth with a seemingly limitless ability to spend and yet he never explained to a soul how he got all that money.  Further, he told no one his age and always insisted he was born in New Orleans.  Perhaps this all teaches us how intriguing the movie life is – people want to be in show business so badly that they are willing to work with such a mysterious character.

There are also lessons to be learned about sticking to your dreams, no matter how crazy they are.  Tommy has no talent.  Yet, an acting coach tells him his look is such that he could easily walk into evil villain roles akin to Dracula and Frankenstein.  Despite the possibility of fame, Tommy will have none of it.  He’ll be the hero in a movie or he walks.

I’ve always wondered why, if Tommy wanted so badly to be in the movie business and he had so much money, why didn’t he just bankroll the work of a talented indie film director?  Money men have been bankrolling their tinsel town dreams and getting their names in big screen credits with their cash forever.  Hell, our current secretary of treasury is one of Hollywood’s top money men.

But Tommy didn’t just want his name in the credits.  This was his movie and he wanted to make it, his way, and although he failed to make the drama he intended, he succeeded at making an unintended comedy.

Maybe that’s another lesson.  Your failure might lead to an unexpected success.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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