Last night I finally saw James Franco‘s The Disaster Artist (A24, 12.1), which has generated pseudo-hip excitement since debuting at last March’s South by Southwest. It’s basically an amusing-but-never-hilarious thing — it never bored me but it never quite lifts off the ground either. But it’s worth catching, I’d say. It falls under the heading of “necessary viewing.”
On the other hand a lot of cognoscenti who should know better have gone apeshit over The Disaster Artist (what award-season handicapper suggested it might even be worthy of inclusion on a best-of-2017 list?), and I’m telling you right now that it’s time to calm down. It’s fine for what it is, but take it easy.
It’s basically a flat but unaffected true-life saga of the making of a notoriously awful indie-level film called The Room, which, after opening in ’03, gradually acquired a rep of being so bad it’s hilarious and perhaps even brilliant in a twisted-pretzel, ice-cream-cone-slammed-into-the-forehead kind of way.
Based on Greg Sistero‘s same-titled memoir about the making of The Room and his bromance with the film’s vampirish director-writer-star, Tommy Wiseau, The Disaster Artist is basically a curio, a diversion. It generates a kind of chuckly vibe on a scene-by-scene basis, but that’s all.
Why? Because watching a clueless asshole behave like a clueless asshole isn’t all that funny if you’re watching what that’s like on a line-by-line, incident-by-incident, humiliation-by-humiliation basis from a comfy seat in a screening room.
It might seem a bit funnier if you’re watching it ripped or better yet ripped with your friends during a midnight show somewhere. Or if you’re watching it ripped with producer-costar Seth Rogen and producer Evan Goldberg in a private screening room. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been high in a long time, but I bet it would help. All I can tell you is that the Academy fuddy-duds I saw it with last night at the London Hotel screening room were chortling from time to time, but no one was howling with laughter or rolling in the aisles.
The Disaster Artist is basically a one-joke thing that says over and over that having no talent and being a total moron is no hindrance to making an attention-getting film if — a really big “if” here — you’ve got a few million to throw around and you’re willing to spend it freely on production and marketing and so on. It also says that if you’re a profoundly stupid actor and generally beyond redemption in terms of knowing how to produce, direct and write it can be “funny” for people to watch you struggle and fail in your attempt to make a shitty little indie drama that no one will pay to see, etc.
But if your film turns out to be “so awful it’s astounding,” the film says, you might have a shot at a certain kind of notoriety.