The Disaster Artist

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver

Director: James Franco

Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber


The Room is one of those movies that really has to be seen to be believed. It is a movie that fundamentally does not work on any conceivable level, and yet it is so remarkably unique, mesmerising and endlessly rewatchable. It is one of the great cinematic paradoxes; The Room is a terrible film, but it is also great cinema. If you asked the greatest director in the world to make the worst movie of all time, they couldn’t get any closer to making this film than Gus Van Sant could get to making Psycho. Genius (or maybe ‘anti-genius’ in this case) is something that cannot be replicated, it can only be imitated. There is something there behind the shots and between the edits that cannot be faked, a sense of effort and sincerity that only comes across when the artist truly believes in what they are making. With The Disaster Artist, James Franco takes us behind the scenes to show us what was really going on beneath it all.

The movie follows Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), the author of the book the movie is based on, as a young actor in San Francisco. At one of his acting classes he meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a strange-looking man with a weird accent who inspires Greg with his fearlessness. As soon as the two become friends, Tommy suggests that they move to Los Angeles to try and make it big. There Greg signs up with renowned talent agent Iris Burton (Sharon Stone) while Tommy gets turned down by everyone he approaches. Later he grows jealous of Greg as he enters a relationship with Amber (Alison Brie) and becomes more disheartened with every rejection. As Greg’s auditions start drying up, he reaches out to Tommy, who then decides to write, direct, produce, and star in his own movie. Thus he writes The Room, a drama in the vein of Tennessee Williams, and offers Greg a prominent part. Together they set about making this movie with the help of Sandy Schklair (Seth Rogen), the script supervisor, and Raphael Smadja (Paul Sceer), the cinematographer. As the chaotic production proceeds and unravels, only Tommy seems blind to the horrendous quality of the movie they’re making.

The obvious comparison here is Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, a movie that celebrates the director who made another movie often proclaimed as ‘the worst ever made’. And ‘celebrate’ really is the right word because what made Ed Wood a great movie was the way it admired Wood’s passion, sincerity and optimism, even as it understood that the movie he was making was rubbish. That same feeling of admiration is present in The Disaster Artist. There’s a scene where Tommy and Greg stand on the sight of James Dean’s fatal car crash and are inspired to follow his example and show the world what they can do, no matter the obstacles. That scene is there because the movie doesn’t want us to laugh at these two for making a crap movie, it wants us to identify with them and root for them to make the movie that, for better or worse, would make them both stars. Tommy may be the Disaster Artist, but he is also a dreamer and it is clear from watching this movie just how much James Franco admires that dream.

Tommy Wiseau with his unidentifiable accent, ambiguous age, and vampiric demeanour is very much an enigma to those who’ve seen him and his movie, and one of Franco’s successes is finding the human being within that enigma. He still allows us to laugh at Wiseau’s strangeness because, to put it simply, he is a very strange person. He insists that he’s from New Orleans despite not sounding like anything from planet Earth, he appears to be infinitely wealthy but cannot seem to explain where the money comes from, and he claims to be the same age as the twenty-something Greg even though, well, look at him! He’s also at the very least sexually ambiguous and the nature of his feelings towards Greg are never made very clear but are enough to raise some red flags with those around them (what with the way he keeps calling him ‘babyface’ and all). There’s also a monstrous side to Wiseau that comes out in his attempt to be the next Kubrick or Hitchcock which Franco showcases in one particularly revealing scene where Tommy mistreats his co-star Julliette Danielle (Ari Graynor). Yet, beneath all of that, Franco is able to find a vulnerable, insecure side to Tommy, someone who wants nothing more than to be admired and celebrated. It is a wonderful performance.

There is tragedy to The Disaster Artist, but from that tragedy comes laughter. The movie Wiseau made may not have been received the way he’d hoped and he may not be the enigmatic, inspired auteur he wanted to be, but through all the heartbreak and humiliation he made a movie that has brought endless joy to millions of people all over the world. To see just how much of a cult following The Room has gathered, look no further than the number of celebrities who join Franco in his celebration. This includes the likes of Kristen Bell, J.J. Abrams, Keegan-Michael Key, Adam Scott, and Kevin Smith, who all appear in the opening montage to discuss The Room and the impact it’s had, and also Bryan Cranston, Judd Apatow, Melanie Griffith, Hannibal Buress, and Bob Odenkirk, who all make cameos. It’s a movie which reminds us that there is inspiration to be found not only in the greatest successes but also in the greatest failures, and The Room might very well be the greatest failure in the history of cinema.

★★★★

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The Voices

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver, Ella Smith

Director: Marjane Satrapi

Writer: Michael R. Perry


I’m at a loss over what I should write in this review mainly because I think that The Voices, much like Cabin in the Woods, is the kind of film where the audience should go in knowing absolutely nothing. This is a film with such a strange and unconventional concept that it becomes all the more fun if you go in not knowing what to expect. It is a film that throws many surprises at the audience and constantly plays with their perception and expectations. In my opinion any discussion of the plot details would steal away from the element of surprise which is why my recommendation for anyone who enjoys black comedies and isn’t too squeamish is to not read any further. Go watch the film and enjoy. However, since I have a word count to meet, I will go on further about the film for the benefit of those who don’t really care about knowing the plot details. I’ll be careful not to give away anything that you can’t find out from watching the trailer.

Seriously, if you want to be surprised, don’t read any further.

The plot revolves around Jerry (Ryan Reynolds), a guy with a ridiculously sunny disposition. He is always wearing a grin and bright, colourful clothing, he is absurdly polite to everyone in his life, and he seems blissfully clueless about everything. He meets regularly with his therapist Dr. Warren (Jacki Weaver) who talks to him as if she were talking to a six-year-old boy and who seems happy with his progress but concerned with the ambiguity of the answers to her questions (“Do you hear voices?” “Not really”). When he develops a crush on Fiona (Gemma Arterton), a sophisticated co-worker in his office, he helps organise the office party in an attempt to get closer to her. It is clear to all, especially Fiona, that Jerry is not a normal guy but he is mostly shrugged off for what most people take to be his harmless goofiness. No one, not even Dr. Warren, realises the true depths of Jerry’s troubled, depraved mind.

The audience is given a twisted insight into Jerry’s mind when he goes home to the apartment that he shares with his pets. There he has conversations with his two alternative personalities, his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers (both voiced by Ryan Reynolds). Bosco is Jerry’s faithful, dim-witted companion who consistently reassures him that he is a good person and Mr. Whiskers is his furtive, abusive abettor who urges Jerry to act upon his baser instincts. The interactions between these three are comedy gold. Jerry’s impulsive nature eventually gets the better of him when an encounter with Fiona ends with him comically stabbing her to death by accident. His innocence is almost endearing as he politely apologises to Fiona’s bloody corpse. He takes the body back to his flat, chops her into dozens of pieces and stores her severed head in his fridge. Later when he tries to move on and forget his crime, Fiona’s head joins in the psychotic conversations as she and Mr. Whiskers impel him to become a serial killer. This compulsion becomes harder to resist when the kind and comely Lisa (Anna Kendrick) starts to show an interest in him.

Ryan Reynolds is someone I’ve never rated as an actor, put he absolutely kills it in this role (pun intended). His childish expressions and goofy mannerisms are perfect for portraying Jerry’s innocent simplicity. Due to a trauma that took place during his childhood, Jerry is very much still a little boy and he lives in a bubble through which he sees the world as this bright, colourful, wonderful place. When Jerry goes back to taking his anti-psychotic medication in an attempt to go back to normal, he becomes frightened and distressed to find that the normal world is a dark, horrible place where his home is filthy and covered in blood and his pets don’t talk. He immediately abandons his medication in order to return to the dream world. Reynolds is absolutely hilarious as he portrays Jerry’s ingenuous struggle to not become a serial killer (and, incidentally, he is also a very decent voice actor).

The film is able to convey a darkly comic tone that adds a light-hearted hilarity over the dark, twisted themes. Everything in Jerry’s world is shown to be lively and vibrant with bright colours and sunshine all round. The film is also able to convey humour through the exaggerated violence and gore that is depicted from a clumsily gruesome murder to a talking severed head. All of this makes for a darkly funny and enjoyably fucked up film. With that in mind, not everyone is going to like this film. Some people are going to find it too silly, some are going to find it too weird, and some are going to find it too messed up. However anyone who is prepared to not take this film seriously and enjoy it for its depravity and weirdness will have a great time.

★★★★