THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Who is Tommy Wiseau?
It’s a question that has long befuddled and endlessly amused fans of “The Room,” the infamously bad 2013 movie Wiseau directed, self-financed and starred in. Where did this billboard-self-promoting, Terminator-sunglasses-wearing Frozen Caveman Lawyer knockoff come from? (He has claimed New Orleans but investigation — and his accent — suggest Poland.) How old is he? (No one knows but older than he has said.) And where did he get his apparent wealth? (The movie cost $6 million to make, partly because Wiseau insisted on shooting on both 35mm film and digital.)
It’s also a question that James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist,” a comedy about Wiseau and the making of “The Room,” has no interest in answering. That’s because “The Disaster Artist” isn’t really about Tommy Wiseau. It’s about James Franco.
A quick recap for the uninitiated. “The Room” ran for two weeks in Los Angeles and was roundly panned as a singularly terrible movie.
Wiseau’s friend and co-star Greg Sestero later wrote the 2013 book, with author Tom Bissell, titled “The Disaster Artist” about the inept making of the movie.
To be sure, “The Disaster Artist,” which is based on Sestero and Bissell’s book, will appeal most to fans of “The Room.” Much of it plays like a prequel.
I can’t say I ever found “The Room” nearly so funny as others. Wiseau is far from an outlier in having misbegotten, even demented delusions of fame.
And large swaths of “The Disaster Artist” play off the joke of a hapless goon trying to cast himself as James Dean. As a movie about Wiseau, “The Disaster Artist” isn’t very good.
Aside from a spot-on, “SNL”-ready impression of Wiseau, there’s just not much here besides a loose jumble of recreations and allusions to “The Room.”
Yet as a movie about James Franco, “The Disaster Artist” is a smash hit.
Franco populates the film with friends and comedians, from Jason Mantzoukas to Seth Rogen (also a producer). Franco’s brother, Dave, stars alongside him as Sestero, making the homoerotic bromance between the characters an outright lark. It’s not a coincidence that the big-name producer Tommy awkwardly approaches at a restaurant (and performs “Hamlet” to) is played by Judd Apatow, who gave Franco his first break on “Freaks and Geeks” nearly two decades ago.
The 39-year-old Franco, who has now directed some 18 movies, has long been drawn to all things meta, and, on that score, “The Disaster Artist” is his piece de resistance. There’s something joyful about the Franco brothers playing a fun-house mirror version of their own Hollywood arrival, and the film’s best scenes are with Rogen’s production manager, aghast at Tommy’s incompetence.
When Tommy introduces “The Room” at its premiere, Franco might as well be speaking for himself. “This my move and this my life,” he says. “OK. Be cool.”
“The Disaster Artist,” an A24 release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.” Running time: 105 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP