Movie: ‘The Disaster Artist’

By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — The fact-based comedy “The Disaster Artist” (A24) is certainly not a film for everyone. Wholly unsuitable for kids, it also includes elements that many adults will prefer to avoid.

Yet the movie manages to exert an odd but undeniable appeal so that those grown-ups willing to overlook its lapses in taste are likely to be richly entertained.

This study in strangeness focuses on the eccentricities of notorious self-funding filmmaker Tommy Wiseau (James Franco, who also directed) and on his friendship with a more conventional character, aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). Their mutual encouragement of each other’s ambitions led to their collaboration on Wiseau’s famously bad 2003 movie “The Room.”

James Franco stars in a scene from the movie “The Disaster Artist.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/A24)

Intended as a drama, “The Room” has instead become a cult classic laughfest, cherished for its pervasive awkwardness and nonsensical subplots by attendees at midnight showings. The chronicle of how this stinker came to be made also provides a steady supply of hilarity. Perhaps more significantly, though, “The Disaster Artist” touches viewers’ hearts as its central relationship endures through numerous strains.

In adapting Sestero and Tom Bissell’s eponymous 2013 book, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber play cleverly on one of Hollywood’s most overused themes. Namely, the need to believe in your own aspirations which, given sufficient faith and trust, will inevitably come true.

Here the audience is presented with a dream that maybe should have been left in Wiseau’s off-kilter imagination — and that only reaches its fulfillment in the most ironic of ways.

The humor occasionally goes astray, particularly in scenes playing male nakedness for laughs, and the dialogue is overstuffed with vulgarity. But there is none of that lazy reliance on jokes about sex or bodily functions that makes so much of Tinseltown’s ostensibly comic fare tiresome and banal.

Rather, the Franco brothers skillfully serve as foils for each other throughout, Sestero’s straight-arrow personality helping to highlight his pal’s somehow endearing peculiarity. The sophistication and subtlety they achieve go a long way in making the excesses or waywardness that sometimes characterize “The Disaster Artist” forgivable.

The film contains recurring rear nudity, brief simulated sexual activity, cohabitation, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a milder oath and frequent rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

About Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' news and information service.

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