A Beautiful Disaster - The Disaster Artist

A Beautiful Disaster - The Disaster Artist

Comedic acting gets short shrift. It never seems to garner quite the praise of dramatic performances, but when done well, I would argue it is even more impressive. It can involve all of the same emotive expression, with the added task of eliciting a laugh. So much about tone, timing, content and delivery have to perfectly align for a line to land. The Disaster Artist is an exercise in that sort of comedic excellence. Every so often, we get a character on the level of Borat or Napoleon Dynamite, who moves through world in such a bizarre way that you can't help but stop and stare. Tommy Wiseau is such a character. The only difference being that he is also a real person. The extent to which James Franco channels what is hilarious about him, while also maintaining the humanity to make this a fully formed character, makes this one of the best comedic experiences in quite some time. 

Photo Courtesy of A24

Photo Courtesy of A24

The film chronicles the making of a 2003 film called The Room. It was, as far as anyone can tell, a serious effort that is also objectively one of the worst movies of all time. It is filled with plot inconsistencies, inane writing and horrendous performances. It is an awe-inspiring catastrophe. It exists almost entirely due to will of Tommy Wiseau (played here by James Franco). When Tommy meets Greg Sestero (played by James Franco's real life brother, Dave Franco) in an acting class, the two become fast friends. They move to LA together to try to become famous and eventually decide to make a movie when their efforts at breaking through in Hollywood don't work. 

Tommy finances the movie himself with money no one can quite determine the source of. The film is monstrously expensive and fraught with all sorts of challenges based on Tommy's ideas. The fun lies in watching Tommy follow through on his nonsense dreams as they result in one of the greatest cinematic disasters of all time. 

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There is a fine line between laughing at someone and laughing with them. Making someone the subject of ridicule, particularly when they are still alive, is not okay. And while The Disaster Artist is certainly not shy about poking fun at Tommy, it always seems like he is in on the joke. His eccentricities and the way he functions without a care in the world are almost badges of honor. When he and Greg howl in a crowded cafe or when he recreates Brando scenes in a fancy restaurant, we get the very real sense that this person lives on another planet, Tommy's planet. And Tommy's planet has different rules--or perhaps no rules at all. He is as un-self-aware as anyone could possibly be and yet Franco's work behind and in front of the camera make him thoroughly likable. 

Photo Courtesy of A24

Photo Courtesy of A24

It must be a weird feeling for Franco to find the role he was born to play and have it be this. I am sure most actors imagine that role being a President or a famous athlete; maybe a business titan or a scientist. Most would probably not peg themselves as the perfect choice to play a failed actor making a vanity project so bad it becomes about something other than the vanity. Tommy Wiseau is and was a beautiful disaster. The disaster part was well-established long before now. Hopefully Franco's work does just enough to make people consider the beautiful. That we are alive to experience a colossal failure becoming an accidental success that became the source for comedic gold. If that isn't a beautiful thing, I don't know what is. 

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