There’s sort of an ironic romanticism behind failure. No story would be interesting if there wasn’t some sort of struggle involved. Why is failure so fascinating? In the past week, the Museum of Failure opened in Los Angeles. It’s an epic display of unsuccessful innovations from major companies such as Apple, Google, and Kodak among many others. Shows like Rob Dyrdek’s Ridiculousness and America’s Funniest Home Videos highlight (physical) failure, and laugh it. And nowadays, there is a cult-like obsession with horrible films. In fact, some bad films gain more of a reception than some that are well-made. What is it about a horrible film? I mean an ungodly horrible film? Those rare films that fail at direction, acting, writing, and everything that you could possible fail at during production? Those films you can’t believe even exist? Why do they become immortalized, while many other films fall into an abyss?
Continuing onto the subject of failure and film…For years, The Room has been an anomaly in the entertainment community. Back in 2001, the enigmatic, but ambitious Tommy Wiseau wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a film without any knowledge of filmmaking. Fueled by constant rejection from Hollywood, Tommy Wiseau and his friend Greg Sestero decided to take matters into their own hands. Since then, the tales from the tumultuous production of The Room have become industry legend, and the film itself is cemented in history as one of the worst of all time.
While The Room was a complete abomination, it failed so spectacularly that it succeeded. Over the past 14 years, The Room has achieved cult-status on par with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It regularly sells out screenings, and it has amassed a club of thousands of devoted fans all over the world. Each midnight screening is like a rock concert for movie-goers, where throwing footballs and spoons are rituals, as well as jeering and cheering at the screen.
While Tommy and Greg’s notoriety didn’t come the way they intended, they’re living the dream. There’s room for everyone in Hollywood. Some just have come in through the back door. In an industry that’s in love with itself, The Disaster Artist taps into the emotions of those who dare to dream of making it big in Hollywood. It’s the upside-down version of La La Land as James and Dave Franco claim.
THE DISASTER ARTIST
DIRECTOR: JAMES FRANCO
WRITERS: SCOTT NEUSTADTER, MICHAEL H. WEBER (SCREENPLAY); GREG SESTERO, TOM BISSELL (BOOK)
STARRING: JAMES FRANCO, DAVE FRANCO, SETH ROGEN, ALISON BRIE, JACKIE WEAVER, JOSH HUTCHERSON, PAUL SCHEER, ARI GRAYNOR
For this week’s viewing, I had visited Los Angeles for the first time in a few months. The Disaster Artist had a limited release there prior to going wide on December 8th. I decided to take time to go see it while I was sightseeing. How amazing to see a movie about life in Los Angeles while actually in Los Angeles!
Based on the shockingly true events chronicled in Greg Sestero’s (and Tom Bissell’s) book of the same name, The Disaster Artist explores the story behind the iconic cinematic trainwreck. While James Franco and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber could have easily made fun of Tommy Wiseau, they chose to take a gentle approach and portray the story of The Room as an underdog tale, and also respect the film’s devoted fanbase. They infused it with as much heart as they did humor. They treated Tommy and Greg’s story with respect- painstakingly recreating scenes from The Room, and taking time to show the characters as complex and relatable. The Disaster Artist serves as a tribute to two best friends’ journey to stardom.
This film as a whole shows that everything in Hollywood does come around full circle, and nothing there is truly impossible if you’re insane enough. Even though Tommy Wiseau and James Franco seem worlds apart, they’re really not that different. Like Tommy, James is a sort of jack-of-all trades, producing, directing, starring, and God knows what else. He loves the industry, but had to make opportunity for himself where he wasn’t finding it. And even for a while, James Franco was/is misunderstood in his career endeavors- often becoming the butt of jokes (For his permanent student status, Shia Labeouf-level performance art, and having more projects on his plate than he could possibly ever handle). People aren’t laughing so much now.
While Tommy committed some atrocities on the set of The Room, they still managed to make him sympathetic. To this day, Tommy is still a mystery. No one knows where he’s really from, how old he is, or how he really financed The Room. What we can gain about him from The Disaster Artist? From what we see, Tommy was a man with a dream- who was told he wouldn’t make it. He was also simply a man just looking for acceptance, and an opportunity to shine. Hollywood wouldn’t give him the opportunity, so he created it himself.
While Tommy did have some delusions of grandeur, he accomplished so much more than many could only dream of. Thousands of hopefuls ascend upon Los Angeles every year to make things happen…and then have nothing to show for it. So is “making it” about luck as many people would want us to believe, or is “making it” being crazy enough to follow your dreams despite your circumstances or what the world tells you? The most beautiful thing that comes from The Disaster Artist is the the depiction of pure euphoria that comes with creating a film and getting it out there- regardless of how bad it is.
The worst day on a movie set is better than a good day anywhere else.
Thanks for reading,
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST