Combustible Celluloid
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With: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow, Hannibal Burress, Jerrod Carmichael, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Zac Efron, Nathan Fielder, Ari Graynor, Melanie Griffith, Josh Hutcherson, Jason Mantzoukas, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Megan Mullally, Paul Scheer, Sharon Stone, Jacki Weaver, Alison Brie, Bob Odenkirk
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, based on a book by Greg Sestero, Tom Bissell
Directed by: James Franco
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 103
Date: 12/01/2017

The Disaster Artist (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Oh... Hi!

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Taking a cue from Tim Burton's great Ed Wood, this loving portrait of a terrible filmmaker could have been ridiculing, but instead it's about passion and dedication, with a powerhouse lead performance by James Franco.

In The Disaster Artist, a young San Francisco actor, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), takes classes and dreams of the big time. During one class, he is blown away by the intensity and fearlessness of Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), and asks to be an acting partner. They become fast friends and move to Los Angeles together. After a few years of trying and failing in show business, they get an idea: they will make their own movie.

The heavily-accented, enigmatic Tommy begins writing and, using his own, mysterious, bottomless bank account, buying equipment, hiring crew, and casting. When filming starts, it becomes clear that Tommy doesn't really know what he's doing, tensions mount the movie goes over schedule. However, Tommy's passion somehow manages to keep things together. Finally the movie, entitled The Room (2003), is finished. But what if it has unexpectedly become the worst movie of all time?

Also produced and directed by Franco, The Disaster Artist feels like a perfect fit for this hyper-prolific jack-of-all-trades; he must understand more than most the drive to create and the pleasure/pain of the creation's ultimate completion and exhibition. (Indeed, the real Tommy Wiseau has a cameo in this movie, indicating that he must have approved.)

Without ever inventing any kind of backstory for Wiseau, and never solving the triple mystery of his birthplace, his age, or his financial situation, the movie gives us a fascinating, dynamic character that, miraculously, never outstays his welcome. As Greg, Dave Franco (James's real-life brother) has the much harder job, driving the plot forward, convincingly being Tommy's friend, and being in his shadow, and he does all this admirably.

Packed with fascinating so-odd-they-must-be true details, The Disaster Artist is consistently funny and touching, and, like The Room itself, enjoyable in its own weird way.

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