Based on a true story, The Disaster Artist tells the story of aspiring actor Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau, the eccentric figure behind cult classic The Room. While balancing elements of documentary and generic comedy, this biopic is mainly a vehicle for director and star James Franco, capturing Wiseau’s unique humour and personality so well that he is often indistinguishable from the real figure. It’s a pity then when the film feels the need to return to the cliché narrative tropes that plagues many comedies of today, regardless of its historicity.
Following Sestero and Wiseau from their first encounter to the premiere of their film, The Disaster Artist works best when it focuses directly on this pairing; the real-life Franco brothers sharing brilliant chemistry despite playing very different characters. Their friendship is the crux of the movie and it always feels genuine, often able to transcend the films central gimmick and offer more than just a few cheap laughs at Wiseau’s expense. There is genuine sympathy and emotion created on his part that makes him more than just a punchline and, despite his privacy and abrasiveness, paints him as a surprisingly admirable figure. While the film follows the troubled production and the mysterious man behind it, it can often fall into the trap of simply referencing and reminding us of why The Room was funny rather than being funny in itself: several extended montages serve only this purpose. However, this is alleviated by the power of the ensemble cast, a checklist of brilliant comic stars whose charm and enthusiasm for telling this story shine through the potentially tired moments. Each actor gives the sense that they were scrambling for a part so that they could be in this film and honour a now classic unintentional comedy.
The Disaster Artist is strongest when following its own rhythm and creating a series of great comic set pieces but all too often it returns to the formulaic structure of every other comedy with each story beat painfully obvious from early on. At moments like these, it makes you wonder how accurate the story really is to fit so perfectly into this Hollywood model, blurring the line between fact and fiction.
Adapted from the book of the same name, The Disaster Artist is a brilliant peek into the madness surrounding The Room. While not without its flaws, the enthusiasm and humour breaks through every scene to offer a strong comedy in which the laughs are actually intended.