BEIRUT: It’s quite the interesting experience one feels after witnessing a film recounting the making of the most atrocious film of all time.
The Disaster Artist, based on the book of the same name, follows Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco) as he struggles to bring The Room, Wiseau’s terrible yet ambitious film, to the silver screen.
Seeing as to how this film’s technical aspects are quite standard and nothing overly creative is done when it comes to the cinematographic, or editing aspects of the film – what stands out the most is the film’s overall narrative and ideological elements, as well as one of the Franco bros.’ the best performance on screen.
Thematically, the film does at first inspire anyone with dreams in regards to film to go forth and fight for them. This is established with Tommy Wiseau’s character which goes through an almost hero’s journey-esque type arc.
American mythologist Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey starts with the call to adventure, the moment the hero is called upon to go on a journey, and goes all the way around to the return, the end of the hero’s journey, which according to Campbell can have many outcomes.
In the case of The Disaster Artist, screenwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter use Campbell’s structure to flesh out Wiseau’s journey in the dangerous land of Los Angeles and the cruelty of Hollywood.
The film is an entertaining hour and forty-four-minute tale of friendship, dreams, heartbreak, and passion and it does its job.
With the entire cast delivering solid performances, and the overall execution of the film being on point, nothing about this feature is negative at first glance.
Yet, as brilliant as James Franco’s chef-d'oeuvre is – the question that resonates while walking out of the cinema is: Has this what “popular art” has succumbed to?
Is this tribute to what is, in fact, a terrible filmmaker, regardless of his heart and passion, a double-edged sword?
Much of modern art is lacking and downright dull in comparison to what has come before, and this applies to cinema as well.
With Hollywood’s over-saturation of soulless commercialized franchises and the audience’s negative reception of films that challenge, and push boundaries – are films like The Disaster Artist, in fact, a dangerous celebration of lackluster, and cheap cinema?
Tommy Wiseau’s film is now a cult classic and sells out screenings to audiences laughing at Wiseau’s final product – a product which originally was meant to be a dramatic, heartfelt, personal tragedy.
The audience that first saw the film, including its cast and crew hated it so much they ended up laughing at its ridiculousness.
That is the truth.
Entertainment Weekly at the time of the film’s release captioned it “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”
Franco’s “it’s all a matter of perspective” moment at the end of the film casts an illusion on the audience and makes it seem that the audience is actually enjoying the final result of the film.
This decision contrasts with James Franco’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel when he tried to censor himself from sharing his true thoughts about The Room, saying, “…there was the same amount of passion in these guys [Tommy Wiseau and best friend Greg Sestero] as a young Coppolla…it’s just they ended up making something that’s just-” then cut off and looks around then continues, “…I mean, Tommy’s here.”
So, if Franco himself believes that The Room is terrible, why then make a film that glorifies it and almost rids it of its terribleness?
The Disaster Artist romanticizes the film it is based on, but also deifies Tommy Wiseau, making him almost a Luke Skywalker-esque legend with a mysterious past who defies all odds and achieves his goal, a perfect ending to a Hollywood picture.
To sum up, Franco’s fine achievement in The Disaster Artist, a film that is highly recommended to be witnessed, is likewise a film that must be taken with a grain of salt.
Though its apparent message is one of challenging adversity and achieving one’s dreams, at its core it is a film that opens the door for the glorification of second-rate, cliché-ridden, and juvenile films.
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