“The Disaster Artist”

                       

 

            I'm going to pretend that you, dear readers, are just as ignorant as I am about all this, so I will attempt to explain it as if you've never heard of it, either.

            “The Room” (not to be confused with the 2015 Academy Award winner “Room”) was a very bad movie made in 2003.  A rich guy named Tommy Wiseau was bombing out in acting classes in San Francisco, and he was tired of everybody rejecting him, so he was glad to make one friend from the class, a much younger guy named Greg Sostero.  Tommy tells Greg that he has a place in L.A.  Greg gets stars in his eyes about making it in Hollywood.  Tommy and Greg make a “pinkie pact” to always stick together and be there for each other and chase their dreams together. 

            But alas, L.A.chewed them up and spit them out, as it does so many acting wannabes.  Nothing but rejections.  Greg thought he had a big break when an agency signed him up as a client, but after several failed auditions, they weren't returning his calls, either.  So one day Tommy and Greg decide that if no one will let them be in a movie, they'll just make one of their own, where they will be the stars.  Greg is flabbergasted that Tommy actually has enough money to do that.  Tommy is very secretive about where he's really from (he keeps saying he's from New Orleans, but his funny accent undermines his story).  Nobody knows where he got his money, and he'll never say how old he really is (he says he's about Greg's age, but even Greg isn't buying it).  Tommy puts out a casting call for the movie he wrote called “The Room,” which is apparently a kind of autobiographical complaint about every time he felt he's been treated badly in his life.  The whole thing is completely amateurish.  Nobody is a professional, the acting is terrible, the story line is undecipherable, and there's a really awkward bare-butt scene, as well as a fakey suicide attempt, and it's all very difficult to watch.

            And now comes the punch line:  “The Room” has apparently become a cult classic, similar to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” of a previous generation.  It's become a campy thing, where people attend the movie in costume, throw things at the screen, yell at the characters, repeat lines from the painfully uninspired script, and laugh uproarously in the places where it's so deadly-serious it's awkwardly humorous.

            But, as we all know, in Hollywood, it's always better to be looked over than overlooked.  Being talked about because you're terrible is better than not being talked about at all.  It's a kind of reverse fame that people actually embrace in good humor.  The real Tommy and Greg have done that.  Which is why, apparently, it was possible to film this current movie about the making of his atrocious film fourteen years ago.  James Franco directs and plays Tommy Wiseau (complete with the weird accent), and his brother Dave plays Greg Sostero.  The rest of the casting seems haphazard, but isn't; some of the A-list actors seemed eager to make a cameo in this one.  There's no dynamic quite like Hollywood enjoying making fun of itself.

            Of course, if you're already into the big farce surrounding the film, you won't miss seeing it, anyway.  For those of us who are late to the party, well, let's just say that broad satire is an acquired taste.  At least you feel like you're in on the joke:  even when it wasn't meant to be funny, that's exactly what makes it so.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association