Just because you want it doesn't mean it can happen

Just because you want it doesn’t mean it can happen

 

“As somebody once said, there’s a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is simply the non-present of success. Any fool can accomplish failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. A fiasco is a folktale told to others, that makes other people feel more… alive. Because it didn’t happen to them…”

As luck would have it, this line was delivered in a film that is, a failure or a fiasco – depending on who you ask.

But for inarguable fiasco, one need look no further back that 2003. To one movie, and one man.

It was a fiasco so incredible that it will remain part of film lore. Indeed, a folktale – but perhaps a folktale that some do wish happened to them.

It’s 1998 in San Francisco when we meet struggling teen actor, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). Timid and reserved, Greg has the desire to act…if not quite the skill. Everything Greg hopes to be he sees in a fellow acting student named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Unabashed, undeterred, and borderline-unhinged, Wiseau throws himself headlong into any material he comes across. He could be on a stage, he could be in a diner – it doesn’t matter. He’ll give 110%. Not that that’s good enough.

Wiseau convinces Sestero to move with him to Hollywood and give acting a real run. After months of trying to break into the business and getting nowhere, Greg suggests that he and Tommy should make their own movie. If Tommy is a bull, this is a red cape. He dedicates the next three years to writing his first-ever screenplay, an opus he titles THE ROOM.

Come 2001, THE ROOM is ready to begin production. Almost from the word “go”, the production is a series of unfortunate events. Tommy buys equipment most other productions would rent, he builds sets that look just like nearby practical locations, and casts his actors based on…well…curious readings. All of this is before Wiseau steps in front of the camera. Why write and direct a movie, when you can write, direct, produce, and star in it?

Wiseau’s acting is…bumpy. His cadence always seems wrong, his emotions seldom match the words he is saying, he’s naked for reasons only he can understand, and he often can’t remember lines that he wrote for himself. Day by day, the production gets messier and messier until Tommy seems to be holding it together by pure force of will.

Relationships are forged. Relationships are lost. Relationships are forged then lost. Wherever Tommy goes, he seems to leave chaos in his wake. His cheques keep clearing though, so he endures. He endures to see his dreams become reality – endures to usher the whole wide world into THE ROOM.

 

Franco Brothers in The Disaster Artist

 

There’s no disputing the amount of love THE DISASTER ARTIST has for Tommy Wiseau and THE ROOM. Right off the hop, the film wants us to believe that this man and this film deserve a place in the annuls of cinema history for what they were able to achieve. There is affection and admiration that continues all the way through the film’s final credits. It would have been very easy for Franco et al to get in front of the camera and just do their favorite bits and impressions of what has become a notorious work.

Nobody takes that approach, which is impressive considering the sort of dick and fart jokes that usually amuses this particular band of merrymakers.

If anything, what Franco and his crew want to say is that nobody in this world truly sets out to create something bad, and nobody ever willingly signs on for catastrophe. Jacki Weaver tells it best as Carolyn, the actress playing Lisa’s mom. To paraphrase her, the worst day on a movie set is still better than any other day in the real world. That’s the reality in film, and that’s the reality in life. People get involved with projects and ideas in the hopes of adding something memorable to the world.

THE DISASTER ARTIST wants to make it clear that even if Tommy is, well, Tommy…that Greg, Sandy, Juliette, and the rest of the cast and crew believed that they were a part of something honest, if not necessarily something great. Nobody knew where it might lead them, nobody knew where the completed film might end up.

They all kept showing up and acting professional, even if the conditions around them weren’t professional conditions. They kept giving it their best even if THE ROOM wasn’t anything approaching “the best”, because there’s always the possibility that something good can come from giving your best effort.

It’s a wonderful tack for this movie to take. Unfortunately, it’s undercut by something else.

There’s a feeling of dishonesty that undercuts much of THE DISASTER ARTIST. That’s not to suggest that it is spinning what some political pundits would call “alternate facts”, just that it has a tone about it that its subject doesn’t deserve. The key conceit of THE DISASTER ARTIST is to believe in yourself, and that sometimes victory can be found even in defeat. But that’s…not…what happened.

I’d never skewer someone for enjoying something “so bad it’s good”, nor would I ever deny that Wiseau hasn’t made a nice little racket on the cult film circuit. But by all accounts, Wiseau is still often abhorrent to relate to personally, and THE ROOM is a nasty piece of filmmaking that managed to get many to overlook just how mean it is. To stoke the myth of how Wiseau and THE ROOM lucked-out once upon a time seems dishonest.

There are lots of people who set out to do one thing and fluked into something else; they aren’t getting movies made about them.

When the dust settles, one probably couldn’t ask for a better movie about Wiseau and THE ROOM. That, however, supposes that one needs or wants a film about Wiseau and THE ROOM at all.

 

Matineescore: ★ ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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