A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “The Disaster Artist,” the neo-noir “Sweet Virginia” and the buddy flick “Suck It Up.”
The Disaster Artist details a filmmaker whose artistic ambitions outweigh his talent. Tommy Wiseau, the writer, director, producer and star of The Room, is the title character, a man who miraculously and unwittingly turns disaster into triumph.
The key to telling the story of the making of the worst film ever is not recreating The Room beat for beat — it’s actually about treating Wiseau as a person and not an object of fun. He’s an outrageous character and James Franco commits to it 100 per cent. From the marble-mouthed speech pattern that’s part Valley Girl and part Beaker from The Muppets, to the wild clothes and stringy hair, he’s equal parts creepy and lovable. But underneath his bravado are real human frailties. Depending on your point of view, he’s either delusional or aspirational, but in Franco’s hands he’s also never less than memorable.
Wiseau is undeniably a terrible filmmaker and actor. The Room is an incomprehensible mess, a movie so misguided it starts off bad, gets worse and keeps going, through sheer force of will to become enjoyable. It’s a film so awful audiences can’t take their eyes off it, like a car crash.
In that sense Wiseau reminds me of Ed D. Wood Jr., another filmmaker whose name has been synonymous with failure and ridicule. The 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards singled out Wood’s movie Plan 9 from Outer Space in the Worst Movie Ever Made category while also hanging the title of Worst Director around his neck.
To be sure Mr. Wood was no Cecil B. DeMille, but he doesn’t deserve the critical sneers levelled at his work. Certainly movies like Glen or Glenda and Jail Bait were restricted by their über-low budgets and appear hopelessly amateurish, littered by ridiculous special effects and melodramatic acting, but they are entertaining and isn’t that what it’s all about? Many directors have spent a lot more money and not come close to delivering the same kind of giddy fun that The Sinister Urge pulsates with.
Take Michael Bay for instance. His movies make loads of money at the box office, but never fail to put me to sleep. Visually his films are spectacular feasts for the eyes. The former commercial director has a knack for making everything look shiny but having great taste doesn’t make a great film director any more than great taste makes a Snickers bar a gourmet meal.
To my mind the difference between awful auteurs Wiseau and Wood and Hollywood hit-maker Bay is simple. Wiseau and Wood’s films are inexpertly but lovingly made by someone desperate to share their vision. Bay’s big glitzy movies feel like cynical money grabs more concerned with the bottom line than personal expression. I’m quite sure that if Bay had to undergo the trials and tribulations Wood had to suffer to get his movies made he would run to the hills, or maybe just back to his big house in the Hollywood Hills.
The Disaster Artist is a love letter to the movies and how they are the stuff dreams are made of. As for the success of Wiseau’s dream? It’s like what Adam Scott says about The Room in one of the film’s celebrity testimonials, “Who watches the best picture from a decade ago? But people are still watching The Room.”
“The Disaster Artist” details a filmmaker whose artistic ambitions outweighed his talent. The true story of Tommy Wiseau, the writer, director, producer and star of “The Room” is the title character, a man who miraculously and unwittingly turned disaster into triumph.
The story of the making of the worst film ever begins in 1998 at an acting class. Greg Sestero’s (Dave Franco) excerpt from “Waiting for Godot” has severely underwhelmed the teacher. Uptight and timid he’s as stiff as a board onstage. In other words he’s the complete opposite of Wiseau (James Franco), a loose-limbed performer with a wardrobe that looks nicked from Madonna’s closet circa 1986, who is as uninhibited as Greg is clenched.
Tommy is mysterious figure. He claims to be in his twenties, despite clearly being a child of the 1960s. He says his unusual Eastern European accent hails from New Orleans and insists on not being asked personal questions. The there is the question of why his bank account is, apparently, bottomless.
As the odd couple get friendly Tommy becomes Greg’s mentor. “You have to be the best, Greg,” he says, and never give up.” They hang out, watch “Rebel Without a Cause”— “You could be like James Dean,” Tommy says.—and hatch a plan to move to Los Angeles to make their mark in show biz. “I don’t want a career,” Tommy says. “I want my own planet.”
Setting up shop in Tommy’s LA pad, they audition and work but an impromptu audition is an epiphany for Wiseau. Spotting a high rolling producer (Judd Apatow) at a fancy restaurant Tommy recites Shakespeare for the bewildered man. Before being thrown out the producer gives him some advice. “Just because you want it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Even with the talent of Brando it’s one in a million and you don’t have it. It’s not going to happen for you.”
In the face of rejection Tommy decides to take matters into his own hands. “Hollywood rejects us,” he says. “We do it on our own.” He writes “The Room,” a self proclaimed masterpiece that he will produce, direct and appear in. Of course there is a juicy role in there for Mark as well.
Much of the rest of the movie is spent chronicling the bizarro-land production of the film-within-the-film. Bankrolled by Tommy, the $6 million production was plagued not only by a nonsensical script but Wiseau’s strange behaviour. When Greg moves in with his girlfriend (Alison Brie) Tommy feels betrayed and takes it out on the cast and crew.
The final product is the stuff of legend. “The Room” is an incomprehensible mess, a movie so misguided it starts off bad, gets worse and keeps going, through sheer force of will to become enjoyable. It’s a film so awful audiences can’t take their eyes off it, like a car crash. “Is it still going?” asks Lisa (Ari Graynor), one of the stars of the film through tears and giggles.
The key to pulling off “The Disaster Artist” is not recreating “The Room” beat for beat, although they do that, it’s actually about treating Wiseau as a person and not an object of fun. He’s an outrageous character and Franco commits to it 100%. From the marble-mouthed speech pattern that’s part Valley Girl and part Beaker from The Muppets to the wild clothes and stringy hair, he’s equal parts creepy and lovable but underneath his bravado are real human frailties. Depending on your point of view he’s either delusional or aspirational but in Franco’s hands he’s never also never less than memorable. It’s a broad, strange performance but it may also be one of the actor’s best.
“The Disaster Artist” is a character study about the power of dreams. Even if it isn’t in the way Tommy intended, audiences have fun at “The Room” screenings. “How often do you think Hitchcock got a response like this?” asks Greg as the crowd roars with laughter.
The new film is a love letter to the movies and how they are the stuff dreams are made of. As for the success of Tommy’s dream? It’s like what Adam Scott says about “The Room” in one of the film’s celebrity testimonials, “Who watches the best picture from a decade ago? But people are still watching ‘The Room.’”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the making of the making of the worst film ever made, “The Disaster Artist,” the terrific neo-noir “Sweet Virginia” and the road trip flick “Suck It Up.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Travis Dhanraj talk about the weekend’s big releases, including Seth Rogen’s smarter-than-you-think “Sausage Party,” “Pete’s Dragon,” a new look at Disney’s most famous dragon and Meryl Streep as the world’s worst singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
Richard and CJAD Montreal afternoon show host Barry Morgan talk about the weekend’s six big releases including Seth Rogen’s buffet of bawdiness, “Sausage Party,” “Pete’s Dragon,” a new look at Disney’s most famous dragon, Meryl Streep as the world’s worst singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” Bryan Cranston back in the underworld in “The Infiltrator,” “Anthropoid’s” World War II drama and Anna Gunn’s Wall Street thriller “Equity.”
Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the family friendly “Pete’s Dragon,” the un-family smörgåsbordof swears and smut that is “Sausage Party” and the marvellously off key “Florence Foster Jenkins. ”