Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 8, 2017

The Disaster Artist, what a disaster

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 1:53 am

I’m doing something I haven’t done in years—write about a film I walked out on.

I had my doubts about “The Disaster Artist”, a film that was shown at the Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) this year since it was produced and directed by the insufferable James Franco who was also the film’s costar. The film is based on a true story—the making of “The Room”, which some say is the worst film ever. I thought that perhaps it might have the affectionate touch of “Ed Wood”, the vehicle for Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Hollywood’s worst director especially since New York Magazine’s Jada Yuan said, “it may soon join Tim Burton’s Ed Wood in the ranks of great movies about terrible movies.”

Things started off inauspiciously when I showed up at the Tribeca Screening room 10 minutes before the film started and was asked by the guy at the door to id myself since my name wasn’t on the list. Proper id in this instance meant providing the email id or the name of the publicist who sent me an invitation to the screening that I rsvp’d to. Since I don’t own (and won’t own) a smartphone, I told him I had no idea who it was but he could check my name on Rotten Tomatoes and see that there are 1300 of my film reviews. Showing a rather low level of comprehension, he asked me once again for the email or name of the publicist who contacted me. “Look”, I said, “do you think that I would come down to the Tribeca Screening Room in a driving rain in order to jeopardize Robert De Niro’s security? What is the deal with De Niro and security, I began to rant. Five years ago I showed up at a Tribeca Film Festival screening on the wrong day to see a documentary about sea life ecology and was blocked from taking a seat by a security guard. Even when the publicist vouched for me, the security guard not only insisted I leave but put his hand on a pistol in his holster to show that he meant business—a Travis Bickle telling me to get lost. I guess they couldn’t take a chance on a secret al-Qaeda operative bombing their screening room.

I walked out of the film after 20 minutes. Instead of seeing anything remotely as charming as Timothy Burton’s “Ed Wood”, I was exposed to what would have been a 103-minute version of an SNL sketch like “Wild and Crazy Guys” or “The Roxy Guys”. These are the 5 minute patented comedy routines in which two supremely stupid but self-confident stooges embarrass themselves to get laughs out of a studio audience and the millions of TV fans who enjoy satire based on punching down. Despite the shots that Chevy Chase took at Franco or that Alec Baldwin takes at Trump, most of SNL consists of laughing at rather than with ordinary people living in the USA. Not only is it elitist, it is dull.

As tedious as those SNL sketches were, they were at least relieved by some funny moments especially with talents like Dan Ackroyd and Steve Martin. What you get with “The Disaster Artist” is the mockery of losers but without the yucks. A deadly combination.

James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, who was an aspiring actor that met Greg Sestero in an acting class in San Francisco in the late 80s. He is played by Franco’s brother Dave. After meeting each other, the two hooked up and decided to make a movie of their own since nobody auditioning them in Hollywood thought they were any good. Wiseau, in particular, was horrible. The running gag in “The Disaster Artist” is Wiseau reading lines in a thick accent like “the wild and crazy guys”. When the casting director tells him to drop the accent, he replies “what accent?” As it happens, Wiseau was a Polish-American and had an accent. Somehow, I don’t find jokes about having an accent that amusing in 2017.

Everything in “The Disaster Artist” is totally exaggerated. I am willing to believe that Wiseau and Sestero had no idea how limited their abilities were but Franco is determined to make them look even more stupid than the characters in those SNL sketches and even coming close to the performances of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in “Dumb and Dumber”.

For example, when Wiseau is casting for “The Room”, he has women being asked to act as if they were eating a melting ice cream cone while they are a cowboy on horseback. We are supposed to laugh at her look like she is performing oral sex. It is hard to tell whether Franco wanted to dumb down this scene for a teen audience or whether he has the sensibility of a 16-year-old himself. I simply don’t care to find out.

The screenplay for “The Disaster Artist” was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the team responsible for the 2009 “Pink Panther 2” that got a 12% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. One critic wrote, “I have seen taxidermy livelier than this moribund mess which further sullies the reputation of everyone associated with this unwelcome sequel.” I only wish that “The Disaster Artist” was half as good.

The irony is that in spoofing what some critics regard as the worst movie ever made, James Franco has made the worst film of 2017.


  1. Dont tell me you didnt chuckle at least a little bit with Dumb and Dumber…

    Comment by seaspan — November 11, 2017 @ 1:22 am

  2. What do you think of “In Living Color” sketches? Or John Candy and co in Second City? Maybe I just have a low bar that tickles me….

    Comment by seaspan — November 11, 2017 @ 1:38 am

  3. I highly recommend you watch “The Room,” at least ONCE. Read up on the production history of the film on Wikipedia (if you haven’t already) to get an idea of what an… odd duck… Tommy Wiseau is in real life.

    Comment by Reza Lustig — November 13, 2017 @ 10:36 pm

  4. The Roxbury Guys sketch was made into a full-length movie. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Night_at_the_Roxbury

    As for The Room, I saw it on Adult Swim when they played it on April Fools Day: http://www.ign.com/boards/threads/tom-wiseaus-the-room-is-on-adult-swim-for-april-fools-day.190735716/

    And here’s an article about the movie from Harper’s: https://harpers.org/archive/2010/08/cinema-crudita/

    Comment by Poppa Zao — November 18, 2017 @ 7:08 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: