The 400-Word Review: The Disaster Artist
By Sean Collier
December 11, 2017
The book The Disaster Artist, nominally a behind-the-ridiculous-scenes look at the making of cinematic trainwreck The Room, has three chief concerns. In descending order of effectiveness: the mystery that is Tommy Wiseau, the deeply troubled and troubling faux-auteur behind The Room; an accounting of the staggering conditions on the set of the film; and the curious relationship between Wiseau and Greg Sestero, once a promising young actor who fell inescapably into Wiseau’s orbit.
Sestero is the co-author (with Tom Bissell) of The Disaster Artist, and seems to know that that third subject — his relationship with Tommy — is interesting to fans and necessary for framing his story, but it’s not why readers are turning the pages. We’re here to figure out who the hell Wiseau is, or at least who Sestero thinks he is.
James Franco and pals made The Disaster Artist into a movie — and they focused on the exact wrong parts of the book. It’s an entertaining movie in spite of this, but it is much more endearing tribute than illuminating revelation.
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber — the team behind The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars — and directed by Franco, The Disaster Artist doesn’t aim to be a faithful adaptation of the book, nor is it always tied to the true facts of the matter; it’s the movie-fied version, to be sure. Sestero (played by Dave Franco, James’ brother) meets Wiseau in an acting class and somehow ends up moving to Los Angeles with him; things get kooky from there.
Unfortunately, Franco and company — including producers Seth Rogen (who plays a supporting role) and Evan Goldberg — are not particularly interesting in unpacking Wiseau in any but the broadest terms. The drive of The Disaster Artist is in presenting the ridiculous reality of The Room’s conception and exploring the friendship between Wiseau and Sestero.
And of course it is; nearly every movie ever made by the Rogen/Goldberg/Franco camp is focused on male friendship. It has become not merely a focus of these artists but an outright obsession — and there’s little more to say about the subject at this point.
Fortunately, the elder Franco’s dedicated performance and the sheer madness of The Room make for an easy, entertaining time. If The Disaster Artist were as ambitious as The Room, though, it might’ve been something remarkable.
My Rating: 7/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark