James Franco, you have come so very far since the 2010 Oscars.
Franco is a legit tour de force, both in front of and behind the camera, as leading man and director of The Disaster Artist. He has exquisitely approached a role that, in the hands of another, less committed actor, could have easily played as caricature, adding layer upon layer to the irresistibly oddball filmmaker Tommy Wiseau.
Based on the eponymous 2013 book by actor Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist opens on Sestero (Dave Franco) who, toward the end of the 1990s, is an aspiring young actor living in San Francisco with his mom (Megan Mullally). Sestero encounters the peculiar Wiseau at an acting class and is awestruck by the audacious scenery-chewing in his rendition of a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. Over the months to come, the two form an unusual but solicitous bond and, yearning to make it in Hollywood, eventually make the move to L.A.
On the steep climb to making their dreams come true, Sestero secures an agent (and a girlfriend) but nonetheless finds negligible success, while the industry all-around shuns Wiseau. One day, Sestero casually floats the idea of making his own picture to provide himself with a film role. Wiseau takes this suggestion literally and, over the next three years, pens the screenplay for what will become The Room, now considered one of the worst films ever made and, because of that distinction, an unimpeachable cult classic.
The making of The Room, which fills out most of the back half of The Disaster Artist, is often devastatingly funny and sure to even resonate with viewers not familiar with Wiseau's 2003 film. What I especially adore about this picture, however, is the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero and how their chance meeting saved them from the doldrums of ordinary life and inspired them to pursue seemingly impossible dreams.
Both Francos are in prime form, with James in particular deserving kudos for not approaching Wiseau as some sort of SNL creation. When, toward the beginning of the picture, Wiseau tells Sestero he wishes he could have his own world, a planet where nothing but love exists, he sounds entirely sincere and it's a stunningly moving moment. The supporting cast is, for the most part, comprised of an endless series of celebrity cameos, some inspired (Josh Hutcherson and Jacki Weaver are a hoot as actors in the film) and others perplexing (please stop giving Zac Efron work).
Comparisons have, no surprise, been made between The Disaster Artist and Ed Wood, Tim Burton's picture about another lovably dreadful filmmaker. While this film does not operate on the same sky-high level as Ed Wood, it's still one heck of a great time and a strong contender for the year's funniest film.