SXSW 2017 Review: The Disaster Artist Celebrates Passion and Friendship
James Franco’s The Disaster Artist was one of the most buzzed about films premiering at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival. James Franco has been extremely interested in bringing this story to the big screen for quite some time, and despite finding his previous directing efforts to be less than memorable, I was curious to see how Franco would handle Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero’s incredible story.
The Disaster Artist screened at SXSW as a work in progress, even though it felt like a completed projected just waiting for a release date. In fact, it felt to me like the film was finished for quite some time now and has been sitting on a shelf at Warner Brothers. I guess the studio was waiting for the perfect opportunity to test it with a big enough audience, which is why it premiered at SXSW. After seeing the film for myself at the festival, I don’t think there could have been a better place to premiere a film that is focused on the making of one of the worst films ever than at SXSW.
James Franco, who I typically find to be hit or miss, seems to have found a great level of appreciation for The Room. Seeing Franco transform into Wiseau was a real treat even though I couldn’t help but feel like he was always doing an impression all the way through. This doesn’t take away from the performance, but it isn’t one of those roles where you see the actor completely become someone else.
The same can be said about Dave Franco, who stars as Tommy’s best friend, Greg. Just like James, Dave delivers a solid performance and becomes Greg Sestero especially with the hair. Dave plays the role with such passion and the two brothers bounce off one another rather nicely. I think the fact that Dave and James are brothers worked in the film’s favor because it was easy for the two to create a believable bond between the two characters on-screen.
There are a ton of cameos, and all of them work incredibly well. I don’t want to spoil who shows up and where but let’s just say it is pretty incredible that so many well-known actors show up at some point in this film. There are even several surprise big name celebrities that open the film as part of the introduction.
Regarding the direction, I felt like it was very by the numbers. Franco has yet to wow me as a director but honestly, he tries here, and it shows. Considering this is a film based on the making of a film with very little production value that also happens to be poorly shot and edited, Franco’s average direction didn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the film. In fact, I have to give Franco a lot of credit for cutting away to some of the side-by-side comparison shots of The Room during the end credits. You can tell that Franco invested his time and energy into this project. It feels like it was important for him to get Tommy and Greg’s story right and even seems like the story hit close to home for him as a creative artist.
What surprised me the most about The Disaster Artist is the fact that the film feels like a love letter to dreamers while celebrating friendship, drive, and passion. The fact that Wiseau isn’t a great filmmaker doesn’t matter when in reality he created something that so many people have and will continue to get enjoyment from. I love that instead of poking fun of The Room for being a bad film, Franco and his team decided to focus on the relationships and to show the filmmaking process.
A lot of the reasons why The Disaster Artist works as well as it does is due to the script written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. These two talented writers have co-written several other memorable films including 500 Days of Summer and The Fault in Our Stars. The writers manage to capture the same level of passion that is found in Sestero and Tom Bissell’s novel of the same name. They focus a lot of this story on the relationship between Greg and Tommy which results in the film having a surprisingly large among of heart, especially towards the end.
The Disaster Artist, just like The Room is an entertaining and hilarious watch. The fact that to this day no one knows anything about Wiseau’s origins, his age, or how he got the money to fund the film is fascinating. Franco brings his A game to this project and puts his heart and soul into the material. It is a film that celebrates the filmmaking process while proving that as long as you have the passion, will power, and money to do so, you can make a movie. I cannot express enough how much I love that instead of mocking The Room, the writers, along with the entire cast and crew wasn’t afraid to simply celebrate the accomplishment of making a movie.