Greg (Dave Franco) always had dreams of being an actor when he was growing up, but on enrolling with an acting class in his native San Francisco, he found it was not as easy as it seemed, and his tutor (Melanie Griffith) had some advice for him that had sown doubts in his mind. After one not particularly impressive display, he sat back down with his fellow students and the tutor asked if anyone was willing to truly open up in their performance, and a voice called from the back of the theatre that he was. This was how Greg met Tommy (James Franco), who proceeded to indulge in an absolutely bizarre spectacle of over the top behaviour on the stage. But that was Tommy...
The Room became, after a shaky start, the first film in almost fifty years to truly threaten Edward D. Wood Jr's Plan 9 from Outer Space for its long-lasting title of worst movie ever made. Wood's magnum opus had been so crowned after cult movie fanatics generated enough buzz in the late nineteen-seventies to have the fifties sci-fi flop included as worst of all time in the Medved Brothers' book The Golden Turkey Awards, and its legendary status was thus assured, but after a long campaign by Tommy Wiseau, the creative brains The Room, who ensured it was playing somewhere in Los Angeles for around half a decade, it was discovered by the cultists at large and was must-see material.
Now, the curious thing about this was, and this adaptation of the making of The Room acknowledges this, Wiseau was like Wood before him entirely sincere about these ambitions to be a great filmmaker, no matter how far away he was in realising that dream. Yet Wiseau had the advantage of actually being alive when his belated celebrity status arrived, and was able to revel in it as a kind of weird anti-celebrity, a standing joke who decided to go along with this notoriety since that fame was better than none, and who cared if he had wanted to be a serious artist? Making people laugh was an art too, wasn't it? That self-delusion was at the heart of director, writer and star James Franco's effort, no matter that he tried to make it a celebration of an unlikely friendship instead; it didn't quite take.
Not least because if you read the book by the actual Greg Sestero, you would know that mixed feelings were part and parcel of his relationship with Wiseau, and Franco softened his portrayal to render his reading more sympathetic, more cute and eccentric. We did get a sense of the tyrant his subject could be when we saw him making his movie, but as we were supposed to be laughing at him, this was a comedy as well as a biopic, it tended to work against his creepier traits that were detailed on the page but soft-pedalled or left out altogether in this film. Basically The Disaster Artist, the film, was a variation on Tim Burton's cult classic Ed Wood as envisioned if Bela Lugosi had been directing as well as starring in his own vehicle, and there were genuinely moments of humour as there had to be with this material.
Perhaps the most ironic element, other than Wiseau being portrayed by a real-life star in a movie of his life (or part of his life), was that the consequence of this was to turn that life into a Hollywood fairy tale. He idolised James Dean, for example, and his career trajectory had a substantially more tragic conclusion than Wiseau's at the point The Disaster Artist was made, but here he got to be a hero who was also a rebel, a maverick in a world that had to catch up with him instead of the more accurate supernaturally talentless wannabe who lucked into his fame as a result of having a mysteriously acquired fortune to fund his ambitions that almost all of his equivalent nobodies never had. Another ironic element was that James Franco set his career back when he was accused of misbehaviour just as it seemed he was about to attain superstar status on the back of this, especially when his previous directorial entries had been thoroughly lambasted. Oh well, at least he made a new friend out of it.