Even if James Franco hadn’t gone into Hollywood Jail during the height of Awards Season, there is no earthly way he should have been in the running for Best Actor for the awful piece of shit that is The Disaster Artist.
The Disaster Artist is based on the legendarily bad movie The Room by renowned foreign weirdo Tommy Wiseau, which has become a cult classic for being exquisitely terrible. People love to sit around in movie houses and hoot and holler at the inexplicably wooden acting, meaningless dialogue and nonsensical plot. It’s not really my thing, but if that’s what you’re into good I guess there are worse ways to spend your time.
Franco decided to cast himself as Wiseau, as the Academy loves nothing more than a good impression. He then set about directing The Disaster Artist, which is meant to be an almost shot-for-shot remake of the film, but now everybody’s in on the joke. Not surprisingly, this movie about a shitty movie, is also very shitty. You must ask yourself, when dealing with subject matter like this - what is the point of this movie? Why are we making a movie about a shitty movie? What do we hope to accomplish? As far as I can tell, the point of making The Disaster Artist was to satisfy the self-indulgent desires of Franco to make a passion project featuring all of his buddies and where he would get to do an impression that other people in Hollywood would pretend to like. And it got made because apparently nobody in Hollywood has the power to say no to Judd Apatow any more.
The movie is really terrible right from the beginning. The first sign that something is wrong is that Dave Franco was cast as the co-star. Why was he cast in this part? Well, it can only really be nepotism. I can’t fathom another explanation. Then there is the fact that James Franco just doesn’t bring anything to the part, other than a wig and an accent. I mean, is there any reason we should be celebrating Tommy Wiseau other than our morbid fascination, as a culture, with gawking at weirdos? When you come right down to it, that’s how we got Trump. We love to obsess over the weird, the violent, the cruel, the bizarre, and fetishize it. But why do we do that? Well, that might be an interesting question to poke at. But this is not the movie to do it.
This movie is far more proud, bizarrely, with celebrating its fidelity to the source material. As the credits roll, you get these side-by-side comparisons of certain scenes from both movies to show just how meticulously Franco recreated them. Why is he so proud to prove that he meticulously recreated and repackaged this historically shitty movie using Hollywood wrapping paper? It boggles the mind. I just don’t get how that’s an accomplishment. At the end, when the crowd cheers because the movie is so bad, we see Franco bathing in the glow of the applause, even as they applaud the film for being garbage when he thought it was art. What the fuck is going on in this movie?
The movie opens with talking heads from all the usual Apatow people, giving their $.02 on The Room. Again why? Personally I think it’s because Judd Apatow has now reached the level of power where nobody can stop him. Nobody can stop his passion projects, and nobody can stop him from getting these little garbage movies made for his favorite protégés. A similar thing happened with The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. Now, no one will argue that Shandling was an immensely influential comedian or that The Larry Sanders show wasn’t a milestone in TV history. But did we really need a 2-part, 5-hour HBO documentary on the man, filled with his little dollar store Buddhist ruminations on life? Obviously, if the people at HBO thought that kind of hagiography was a tad excessive, no one had the stones to tell Apatow.
This kind of self-indulgent nepotism, fueled by success, is the only reason I can think of why something as objectively terrible as the Disaster Artist exists. And while it’s common enough in Hollywood for things to work this way, I cannot fathom how Apatow and Franco were able to dupe so many other people, like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, into sharing in that comically absurd delusion.