April 25, 2017

“The Disaster Artist” blows away SXSW


Almost like a surprise birthday present yesterday, ecstatic reviews came pouring in from South by Southwest (or SXSW) about a film that perhaps is the one I truly most want to see this year. It’s The Disaster Artist, an adaptation of the book of the same name, about the making of legendarily bad film The Room. Treated to a work in progress screening at the festival, it blew the lid off of the place. Stealing buzz away from Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, which festival goers also loved, this is the surprise hit so far of the fest. Even more so, there’s an outside chance that this could even be the kind of thing that the Academy takes notice of.

This movie is a look at how an unlikely friendship bloomed between struggling actors Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) and Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Their chance meeting in an acting class would allow Greg to observe the unique character that Tommy was, supremely untalented and perhaps the weirdest human being on the planet, but also wildly passionate about movies. It also would lead to Tommy casting Greg in a film he’d written, planned to direct, and also starred in. It was The Room, which has been called the Citizen Kane of bad movies and has usurped The Rocky Horror Picture Show in some ways as this generation’s midnight movie. The rest is history. The elder Franco directs an adaptation of Sestero’s book by scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber. Supporting players include Alison Brie, Zoey Deutch, Zac Efron, Ari Graynor, Melanie Griffith, Josh Hutcherson, Jason Mantzoukas, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Seth Rogen, Sharon Stone, Jacki Weaver, and many more.

So far, everyone at SXSW is all about this flick, even as a work in progress. Some have mentioned Oscar potential for Franco and company, which I’ll get to shortly, but beyond that, this just seems like a true crowd pleaser. A spiritual successor to Ed Wood and love letter to the passion for filmmaking, there’s more than meets the eye here. Especially with how poorly a lot of Franco’s previous directorial projects have been received, this home run must taste doubly sweet. Warner Brothers and their relaunched New Line shingle probably didn’t fully know what they had on their hands previously, but they sure do now.

As mentioned above, I’m a huge fan of The Room. I’ve also written multiple times before about how I see Neustadter and Weber as the most underrated writers in the business. That combination had me salivating back when it was announced, but with Franco apparently also fulfilling at last the promise he teases behind the camera, this is truly something to be excited about. Plus, Franco was able to bring in all of those cameos and supporting players from A-listers, giving this an extra polished feel. With a proper budget and a strong screenplay, he apparently has been able to knock this one out of the park, upping his game in the process.

Awards wise, this would seem on the surface like a hard sell, but some of the initial reporting out of SXSW speculates that it could be a player. A target campaign, building off of another festival bow, would probably be the smart way to do it. That way, the chances in Best Picture, Best Director/Best Actor/Best Supporting Actor (for Franco), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Neustadter and Weber). Franco in the Supporting category and the script seem like the safest ways to try and make a dent this year, but anything is possible. A lot will depend on when the powers that be opt to release it.

Frankly, it’s too early to really know what Warner Brothers has with The Disaster Artist. Could it be an Oscar contender? Might it just be a crowd pleaser? Do we live in a world where it actually gets to be both? We’ll have to wait and see, but the wait just got harder, considering the quality at hand. Once WB knows what they’re doing, I’m sure they’ll clue us in. Sit tight, as I plan to bring you all lots more on The Disaster Artist as this one unspools later on this year. I might even work in a tribute to The Room as well! We shall see…

Stay tuned for lots more on The Disaster Artist!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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