Have you ever seen a movie so bad that the mere thought of a group of people making it brought you unthinkable amounts of joy? For many, The Room is one of those movies. For James Franco, it not only made him think about the people making The Room, it led him to make his own movie about those people. And that’s how we ended up with The Disaster Artist, which finally hit theaters on Friday. Several Ringer employees saw the film about the film—here are their thoughts.
1. What is your tweet-length review of The Disaster Artist?
Alyssa Bereznak: Technically much better than The Room in that it had a plot and the cameras were focused the whole time, but nowhere near as memorable.
Sean Fennessey: Oh, hai. The Disaster Artist is a 120-minute in-joke about the wonders of creation and the failure of imagination that generously makes a ghoul sympathetic, a rube clear-eyed, and a piece of trash into a sacred artifact. It’s also funny. Movies are magic.
Amanda Dobbins: I enjoy non-arty James Franco!
Andrew Gruttadaro: Only someone with James Franco’s weird and often debilitating passion could make a movie this frivolous this good.
It's very strange to see an honest-to-god Oscar bid with essentially the same cast as, like, NEIGHBORS 2— Alison Herman (@aherman2006) December 3, 2017
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Bereznak: I loved the scene where Tommy and Greg arrive at Birns & Sawyer and are basically like, “Here’s a bunch of money, can we do movie now?” I have always pondered just how slapdash the production was, and it was very satisfying to see the blissful split-second hiring of the crew, who had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
Dobbins: The first scene at the diner, when Tommy badgers Greg into performing a mountain-climbing scene at top volume. The Franco performance is still surprising at that point, and also the scene has nothing to do with The Room, which is good, because … [whispers] I don't really care about The Room?
Gruttadaro: When they couldn’t get Tommy not to laugh after Mark tells him about a man beating up a woman, because there’s nothing nicer than the affirmation that other people are as flabbergasted by certain movie scenes as you are. Also, I plan on using “It’s human behavior” as an excuse for EVERYTHING.
Surrey: So many to choose from, but the reenacted scenes from Franco and the crew juxtaposed with ones from The Room during the end credits was unreal. The attention to detail—and the fact they’re good actors who have to act like bad actors, which is harder than it sounds—was impressive.
Fennessey: The side-by-side of The Room’s most infamous scenes and their chillingly accurate re-creations that runs during the credits elevates the we’re-blowing-our-lines-and-we’re-all-pals Apatovian postscript to useful, even insightful heights.
Herman: The split-screen of the actual Room and The Disaster Artist’s reenactment was better than the entire movie that preceded it—and I really liked the movie that preceded it.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Gruttadaro: How little Alison Brie got to do.
Surrey: Tommy Wiseau’s misogyny—in The Room’s baffling plot, and as seen on set—is complicated, and something The Disaster Artist struggled to convey, since the imperative was to make the audience laugh. To be fair, they did.
Bereznak: Even if it was necessary to illustrate Wiseau’s darker side, the pre–sex scene temper tantrum was really hard to watch. I had always overlooked the general misogyny of The Room because the film itself was just too bizarre to take seriously. But seeing Wiseau’s nude temper tantrum in front of the actress who played Lisa forced me to confront his psychological hang-ups and abusive behavior to the people around him. I don’t think Franco was wrong to include that moment in The Disaster Artist, but it kind of changed how I see the original film.
Herman: Tommy Wiseau is an awkward fit for a pretty boilerplate bromance. He doesn't really change, nor would we ever want him to, but that also makes his reconciliation with Greg Sestero in the movie's final minutes a bit abrupt. He's still the same compulsively secretive weirdo, but now Greg's into it?
Fennessey: Like the book upon which it’s based, when the story leaves the film’s set, it wanders into a kind of murky, even creepy zone that makes you wonder if Tommy is going to murder Greg or chain him in a dungeon lair. This isn’t bad, exactly, but it’s the part of the story that feels closer to real and less than fine.
4. How do you feel about Tommy Wiseau and The Room after seeing The Disaster Artist?
Dobbins: I don’t!
Surrey: I’m now even more amazed that The Room ever got made.
Fennessey: Having attended two full-throated midnight screenings of the movie during its cult peak in New York City, my feelings haven’t changed much. It certainly feels like James Franco and his merry band of reenactors “get” what Wiseau accomplished and honor it.
Gruttadaro: Like maybe it’s harder to make an excellently bad movie than it is to make a good movie.
Bereznak: I will always love the original movie, but I long for the time that I knew nothing about its origin story. Part of its initial beauty is that there was absolutely no context for how it came into our lives. The more details that have been filled in over the years, the more I find myself psychoanalyzing the movie to understand Wiseau’s tortured existence. With the release of The Disaster Artist, The Room has become a much more somber pop culture artifact.
5. Grade James Franco as the star/director of The Disaster Artist.
Fennessey: It’s the best thing he’s done since This Is the End (as an actor) and The Deuce (as a director—did you know Franco directed two episodes of David Simon and George Pelecanos’s superlative HBO drama?).
Bereznak: It’s very hard to portray someone like Tommy Wiseau with nuance because, as a cult icon, his persona has been reduced to a guy with a funny accent and too many belts. Franco added some much needed texture to his character, and portrayed his vulnerabilities and flaws in a way that I never actually thought possible. I know Wiseau originally wanted Johnny Depp to play him, but Franco may have been the only one who cared enough to bring empathy to the role. For that he gets an A.
Gruttadaro: A, with a “Great job!” written on the paper as well. Franco’s meticulousness as both an actor and director in The Disaster Artist is stunning—obsessive, but lovingly so.
Herman: I'm withholding my judgment until the Jim and Andy–style documentary footage of Franco directing in character comes to light.
Surrey: A+. Between The Deuce and The Disaster Artist, he’s having the best stretch of his career and …
6. Has this movie changed your opinion of Franco?
Dobbins: I watched the 2011 Oscars, and (for professional reasons) I've read some of James Franco’s poetry, so that’s time I will never get back. But this is Franco at his best, I think: funny, accessible, and sly.
Surrey: This is perhaps the only scenario where James Franco being this extra would actually lead to critical acclaim. At best, I’m cautiously optimistic on him.
Herman: No. Watch The Deuce, people! We already knew he’s good!
Bereznak: That James Franco made this movie is not surprising to me in the least—it’s the most James Franco thing to ever happen. But I begrudgingly admit I like him more for it.
Gruttadaro: I don’t think so! I’ve always enjoyed his weirdness—either genuinely or cynically—and he’s still that guy. I’m just glad that he found something that perfectly allows him to channel his talents and interests.
Fennessey: As he’s one of the few people on earth who rightfully can lay claim to being both overrated and underrated, no.
7. Pick your favorite Disaster Artist cameo.
Bereznak: Sharon Stone as the terrifyingly aggressive talent agent was iconic.
Herman: You know a movie understands the soul of Hollywood when Angelyne’s in it.
Gruttadaro: It was great to see Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael, the hosts of How Did This Get Made?, a wonderful podcast about the The Rooms of the world.
Dobbins: I'm always happy to see John Early.
Surrey: Zac Efron as Chris R is the funniest thing I’ve seen this year. Efron’s muscles are usually disconcerting, but his incomprehensible swoleness worked for his role as the most intense actor in The Room.
(Related: Did we fully appreciate how animated the OG Chris R was? Give him his drug money, Denny!)
Fennessey: Zac Efron as Chris R is legendary stuff. Also winning: Bob Odenkirk as an absurdly blunt Stanislavski teacher; Nathan Fielder as Peter; and in a heavy flex, a brass-toned Sharon Stone as an agent with eyes for Sestero.
8. How did Tommy Wiseau make his money?
Herman: Our—and The Disaster Artist’s—image of him as a radical naif depends on never finding out, but: something questionably legal and immediately post-Soviet, I assume.
Bereznak: He’s a belt model on the side, duh.
Gruttadaro: He invented the post-it note, I think.
Surrey: If you believe certain corners of the internet (which I want to), Wiseau is the infamous 1970s plane hijacker D.B. Cooper. Wiseau says he isn’t, but that’s exactly what the real D.B. Cooper would say.
9. If you could turn the making of any other Good Bad Movie into a film, what would you choose?
Bereznak: Definitely Miami Connection, a 1987 movie directed, produced by, and starring a Florida-based taekwondo instructor. It’s about a martial arts rock band that goes head to head with a drug-dealing ninja motorcycle gang. It’d be worth it for the hair alone.
Surrey: I’d love the Disaster Artist treatment for The Snowman, in which every actor is forced to reprise their own role and explain what the hell went so wrong in Norway.
Herman: Siri, who is Mister Police?
Fennessey: The Nicolas Cage version of The Wicker Man has extraordinary possibilities; would settle for a Cage biopic.
Dobbins: Gigli. Give us the Bennifer biopic we deserve.
Gruttadaro: Surviving the Game …
I would cast Michael B. Jordan as Ice-T and Gary Busey as Gary Busey.