By Scotty Daniels
The Disaster Artist is without a doubt one of my favourite books of all time. Not only that, but the audiobook, as read by author Greg Sestero himself, is one of my favourite pieces of media of all time. Infamous for its revealing and unflinching insight into the production of The Room, the actual best worst movie of all time, as well as the friendship between Sestero and the absolute enigma of a human being (when he’s not claiming he’s a vampire) Tommy Wiseau, The Disaster Artist managed to be simultaneously hilarious yet heartwarming, brutal yet inspiring. Upon hearing that the brothers Franco would be heading up the film adaptation, I cautiously counted down the months (and oh boy, has this been a day long coming), being both encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive reviews trickling in (including a standing ovation at its premiere at Cannes) yet being swayed by the trailers which didn’t fit my perceived tone of the book at all. Still, determined to let nothing bother me, understanding that ten hours of story needs to be condensed into 100 minutes of actual watchable movie, I snagged some tickets to the film’s premiere weekend at Sydney’s legendary Orpheum Theatre, where the film was preceded by a Q&A by Sestero himself. As a side note, I now have yet another copy of Transformers 1 & 2 that my former reviewing partner Lumpsky managed to get signed by Sestero … how that conversation went down, I will never know. But that is the most amazing paperweight of all time, that’s for damn sure.
Suffice to say, my fears were invalided instantly. The Disaster Artist (film) is an absolutely superb, hilarious and heartfelt adaptation, and easily one of my top five films of this year. What director/star James Franco and friends (including brother Dave Franco as Sestero, Seth Rogen as Script Supervisor Sandy Schklair, and a drop dead hilarious supporting role from Josh Hutcherson as the actor portraying Denny) have achieved is remarkable; succeeding in its intention to play out like Boogie Nights meets Sunset Boulevard, it is both fascinating, thrilling as it is side-splittingly hilarious. Striking a perfect blend of both celebrating in and examining Wiseau’s eccentricities, his bizarre behaviour, complete technical incompetence and unflinching belief that his project is the greatest film in the history of American cinema, not once does The Disaster Artist come across like they are mocking or villianising Wiseau. Quite the opposite in fact; just like the book, Franco has perfectly captured the inspirational nature and result of Wiseau’s completely blind artistic vision, even if he and the film’s now legendary status did not quite occur in the manner in which he intended.
The acting is all top-notch; James Franco is a wonder to behold as Tommy Wiseau himself, completely losing himself in the voice, mannerisms and wonderfully accurate outfits, eating up every scene he’s in with and, just as the audiobook (featuring Sestero’s critically acclaimed impression of Wiseau), one reaches the wonderful point of forgetting you’re watching a performance at all. Dave Franco, whilst not looking the slightest like Sestero, turns in a surprising and refreshingly sincere performance, very much capturing the wide-eyed confusion and excitement of a young kid trying to make it in the biz with both an ally and a hinderance as a best friend. It’s a shame the other characters didn’t get as much time to shine as their book counterparts, as each actor clearly has taken care to recreate their counterparts mannerisms, and hopefully some deleted scenes (or even better, an extended cut) can really fill that aspect of the story out.
As with any book to screen adaptation, The Disaster Artist is not a scene-for-scene recreation of the novel, nor could it have hoped to have been. They are two completely different formats and expecting your favourite moments to be cut, truncated, adapted and homogenised with other moments is to be expected, and whilst I did feel a loss and a fleeting frustration with some of the primary moments of the book not being included (prolifically Wiseau’s inspiration for writing The Room in the first place after watching and misinterpreting The Talented Mr Ripley), it comes with the territory and as its own entity, The Disaster Artist is an absolute wonder to behold. The care, respect and love of the book, of The Room, and for Wiseau, Sestero, the celebration of their friendship, as well everyone else involved throughout, is wonderfully apparent and bursting through every frame and line of dialogue, packed with sincerity, hilarity and a genuine, heartwarming respect. I highly recommend this to anyone and everyone, fan of The Room or not.