- Gareth Crook
The Room (2003) / The Disaster Artist (2017)
This is what we used to call a ’Straight to TV’ film, when TV was rubbish. It is, as is well documented, bloody awful, amazingly awful, incredibly awful. It has to be seen to be believed. It contains some of the most woeful acting I’ve ever seen. Seriously, a group of random strangers with no experience and no script, paid in soggy digestive biscuits could do a better job. Now you’d maybe forgive it a little if it was poking fun at itself or at least had a good story, but it’s not and it doesn’t. What it does have along with the shocking acting, is horrendous awkward sex scenes, bad music, boring stunted dialogue, that for some reason appears to be dubbed and slightly out of sync in places. I feel for everyone involved in this, apart from Tommy Wiseau of course. He’s on another planet, he has to be. Utterly unaware how shit this is. The writer, director and god knows what else of this monstrosity is now mocked and rightly so, but I have to admit, it does seem a little bit cruel. He’s clearly unaware of his considerable failings, surely, he has to be. Tommy plays Johnny, who loves Lisa (Juliette Danielle), who’s bored and wants to shack up with Mark (Greg Sestero) and is also fancied by Denny (Philip Haldiman). That’s about as much substance as we get. There are a few other characters, but they’re even more vacant and pointless than the so called leads. It’s a bit of an endurance test watching this, I only managed one eye on it for its duration, but I’m fairly certain that the same sex scene played out with the exact same shots at least twice. We get blurred shots, shots with heads cropped off. Scenes badly green screened. Glaring continuity errors and nonsensical scene changes. This stuff would be quite funny if the acting wasn’t so bonkers. Surely no one in this believes they can act? Surely everyone on set knew how bad this was going to be? I hoped it might be a bit like Ed Wood’s Planet 9 From Outer Space, the famed worst film of all time, but it’s not. Plan 9 was shit, but comically so and Ed Wood’s heart was in the right place. The Room is just bad and Wiseau’s heart is lost in some weird soulless alternate reality where he thought this would bring him acclaim. The only reason to watch this is morbid curiosity in build up to watching The Disaster Artist.
So onto The Disaster Artist. I’m apprehensive. I think what I’m after really is a documentary about the production of The Room. I want to know what on earth they were thinking, from the mouths of those involved. That’s not The Disaster Artist. This is a satirical piss take. It’s an established movie elite having a laugh at the expense of a delusional novice. I say elite, Franco, Rogan, take that elite comment with a large pinch of salt. So what do we learn? Well supposedly that Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is impressed by Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Their relationship is central to this. That Greg, an aspirating actor thinks he can learn from Tommy is laughable and quite troubling. I can’t help but wonder what Sestero now thinks of The Room, never mind The Disaster Artist. It’s painfully awkward. James Franco is horrendous. Whether this is because he’s just trying to emulate Wiseau is tricky to decipher, but he’s bloody annoying to watch. The heavily effected accent, the broken English. It seems too much. Wiseau doesn’t need dialling up. By contrast the portrayal of Sestro is quite kind. He’s young, naive, gullible, amazed by Wiseau’s apparent wealth and wild flamboyant ambition. He just wants to be a star. LA, bright lights yada yada. I’m kinda intrigued how Wiseau funds his flights of fantasy, but I’ll come back to that. Everyone gets in on the fun, Bob Odenkirk, Alison Brie, Seth Rogan, Zac Efron, Sharon Stone and even Melanie Griffith. As a host of love interests, agents, acting coaches quash poor Tommy’s dreams. Oh and Brain Cranston as, Brian Cranston! Franco’s Tommy is the undisputed focus though, like The Room itself, this performance has to be seen to be believed. Tommy’s Hollywood dreams aren’t going well as he’s told in no uncertain terms that he’s not up to it. He had fair warning. Instead though he decides to go solo, DIY and this is how we get The Room. Decide for yourself whether that’s a good or bad thing, but it paints a clear picture of how difficult it is to succeed in the Hollywood machine, but just how desperate some people are to be excepted. Going outside the machine is fine, embrace the pioneer spirit, but know what the fuck you’re doing. Which Wiseau obviously didn’t. Shooting on different formats with kit he’d bought instead of rented. Hiring a crew, without really knowing what anyone does, building sets that simply recreate the free location on the street outside, it all just ramps up the cringe factor. It’s easier to watch than The Room of course, but I’m not really enjoying it. I know this as a huge smile hits my face for a second with a Faith No More needle drop, it’s the best part of the entire film, lasts about 10 seconds and is the only thing that has any class or quality. Once they start shooting The Room, it does become more fun, it’s oddly satisfying seeing the crew off camera laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Wiseau not knowing his lines, the entire crew screaming them at him and celebrating him getting there on Take 67. Everyone around him knows it’s bad it seems, tries to explain, realises Wiseau doesn’t get it and just gives up. There’s a collective letting go of the wheel as they let the car crash. Greg’s relationship with Amber (Brie) twists the narrative slightly. Tommy takes it has as an attack, a snub and things descend into chaos. A particularly nasty scene around a sex scene is troubling to say the least. Wiseau is aggressive, can’t take criticism and comes off as really fucked up. It’s a combination of Greg wanting to move out and behind the scenes footage that Wiseau witnesses that sends him over the edge. This behind the scenes stuff is being shot for a documentary about the making of a The Room. I really want to see that, but more of that later too. Everyone’s losing their rag, it’s bound to happen. They realise just how nonsensical the script is, how unhinged Wiseau is and what a prick he is. Making petty choices to stitch up Greg and firing anyone on set who goes against him. In a roundabout way it asks the questions we want to know. Where is the money coming from. Where does Tommy come from. How old is he even? There are no answers though. Just the clear statement that Wiseau is delusional. It’s not until the final scene at the premiere of The Room that it almost clicks for me. Watching a packed screening laugh at a fake version of The Room does start to make some sense. Not a lot, but I can understand the cult appeal. The only uneasy thing for me is that this gives The Room some weird kudos and justification for Wiseau. He still thinks he’s a great filmmaker. He’s not.
So, finally, to some answers, hopefully. Room Full of Spoons. A documentary all about The Room, which to date has been blocked by Wiseau. Until April this year when the makers won in court the right to get the film out there. The COVID-19 pandemic has so far stopped that, but hopefully it’ll be out very soon. There’s a whole load of info on the civil suit at roomfullofspoons.com. Including confirmation that Wiseau has been ordered to $750,000 in damages. Where that money comes from we don’t yet know, maybe we’ll never know, maybe the same place the $6 million came to make The Room, who knows? But I can’t wait to see Room Full of Spoons. I’ve already a feeling it’ll score higher than both The Room and The Disaster Artist combined.