There is a touching, genuine understanding of The Room’s legacy almost immediately in The Disaster Artist. Where Greg Sestero’s book of the same name was a tragedy wrapped in humorous anecdotes, the adaptation from James Franco and his gang of pals wishes to dissect the long-standing fascination audiences and actors have with Tommy Wiseau and his passion project, The Room. Its title as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies” is something that has been earned, rather than applied. Looking into that a little further, Franco and his all-star ensemble give it the stab in the back with the inevitable, Hollywood twist, its foundational vigour depleting as that knife turns more and more.
Much of it is due to the performance Franco turns in. How do we adapt a larger-than-life persona to the screen? Making him larger than he already is in the real world, of course. Those oddities and details Sestero presents within his book of the same name are heightened exponentially by The Disaster Artist. Performing a play in a restaurant, rather than being a cryptic moment of surprising influence and help from Wiseau becomes a massively fumbled scene that tries to blend humour with heart. It is the major issue Franco brings to the table, both he and Dave Franco take their leading performances too far. They have moments that unravel the core beliefs and nature of Sestero and Wiseau, but never quite manage to bring that to the most important scenes.
Instead, they are reserving themselves for quieter moments. The Disaster Artist has within it some true sparks of brilliance, but they are often found in the reimaginings of shooting The Room. Seth Rogen manages some great moments with the Franco brothers, but like many of the supporting cast members, they are completely dependent on the absurdity of Wiseau and the cool-headed nature Sestero counters with. Without that working relationship between the two, supporting performers and bit-part players have no chance. Their dominance of the screen makes sense but does not exhibit the qualities of reflection Sestero takes us through in the film. How can it? The written word is often stronger than the filmed narrative, but The Disaster Artist can only adapt the fandom and experience, rather than the meaning behind it all.
What do its many cameo roles offer here? A sign that Franco had leverage? Had friends? Perhaps it highlights how many out there love The Room. Wishful thinking. Skimming over some major details in the lives of Sestero and Wiseau, The Disaster Artist may understand and identify where its greatest moments lie, but it does not have the necessary build-up at hand. Sestero is apologetically supportive of Tommy in his book, but here, he is the sidekick. It feels as though the projected image Wiseau had for The Room is adapted here but in the wrong way. Sestero is the second string to this story of a man pursuing his dream.