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Movie Review

We're encouraged to follow our dreams. We're told that if we work hard enough and dream big enough and never, ever lose hope, we can do anything. We can make those dreams come true.

But what if your dream kinda stinks?

Tommy Wiseau has a dream: becoming a big movie star. He takes acting classes in San Francisco and performs one-word Tennessee Williams sketches, writhing on the ground and crawling up the scenery while bellowing "Stellllaaaaaa!" He is a gifted actor. Brilliant, really. He knows this. The rest of humanity may not, but it's just a matter of time before the world catches on.

Already it begins.

Greg Sestero—a shy actor who watches from the audience as Tommy contorts on stage like a methed-up howler monkey—sees something special in the lanky, long-haired actor. He sees courage. Fearlessness. Total commitment to the craft. Sure, maybe that commitment comes with a healthy dose of eccentricity, but Greg knows it's better than being terrified on stage. So, cautiously, he approaches Tommy and asks if they might do a scene together sometime.

So they do a scene—or, at least, make a scene—in a crowded restaurant, shouting lines of dialog at the top of their lungs.

Soon they're watching old James Dean movies together, then driving 300 miles to where Dean died, then deciding to move to Los Angeles together where they can become rich and famous. They pinkie swear (yes, two grown men solemnly lock their pinkies together) that they'll push each other and never stop until they rule Hollywood like benevolent dictators.

"You have to be the best," Tommy exhorts. "You have to be the best; you can be! And never give up!"

Thankfully and a bit mysteriously, Tommy owns an apartment in Los Angeles, which makes that initial move ever so much easier. But the L.A. acting scene is a tough nut to crack. Greg gets an agent but can't get an acting gig. Tommy—despite his thespian brilliance and Adonis-like visage—can't even get that far. Even Hollywood, it seems, can't appreciate genius when it sees it. Why, when Tommy gives an impromptu performance for a bigshot Hollywood producer at a fancy restaurant, the producer seems—gasp—wholly unimpressed. He tells Tommy that stardom will not touch him in "a million years."

"But after?" Tommy asks hopefully.

Alas, if Tommy and Greg are ever going to become stars, they'll have to do it on their own.

Yes, Tommy has a dream: That dream is a movie called The Room. It's about a guy named Johnny, his best friend Mark and his "hot" girlfriend, Lisa. Also a neighbor kid who has a confrontation with a drug dealer. And Lisa's mother, who mentions off-handedly that she's dying of breast cancer, but then never mentions it again. It's about love and friendship and betrayal. And football. And spoons. And beards. Oh, and Johnny may be a vampire. Did we not mention that?

Tommy will write, produce, direct and star in The Room. He'll buy all the equipment and bankroll the production from his seemingly bottomless account. He'll advertise via rented billboards, plastering his face across the canvas. And he'll hand the second-starring role to his best friend, Greg.

Yes, soon the world will see Tommy's genius for exactly what it is.

Exactly.

Positive Elements

Entertainment Weekly once called The Room—a real movie made by the real Tommy Wiseau—the "Citizen Kane of bad movies." If one would characterize this movie as Tommy's "baby," it'd be akin to the sort of kid we might see in The Omen.

But for all of The Room's glaring and horrific shortcomings, you gotta give Tommy props for the courage he shows in making it. He may lie about his age. He may be very cagey about where he came by his fortune. His passion is admittedly unalloyed by anything resembling sober self-reflection or common sense. But even so, I think some of the more cautious among us (me included) could, like Greg, glean a little inspiration from Tommy's exuberant desire and self-confidence.

While Tommy comes across like an egotistical tornado, Greg feels more relatable. He's grateful to his strange friend for facilitating the move to Los Angeles. He wants to help Tommy pursue his vision, even though he understands that that vision is pretty weird and deeply flawed. Throughout most of the movie, we see Greg try to balance his desire to help Tommy with his own better judgment.

As The Room's production drags on and Tommy grows increasingly demanding and harassing, Greg does what he can to protect the cast from Tommy's sometimes vicious treatment. But even then, he's still mostly on Tommy's side, and the conflicted actor sacrifices a great deal along the way to help Tommy pursue his dream.

Spiritual Content

As mentioned, Tommy toys with the idea of making The Room's main character, Johnny, a vampire.

Sexual Content

The Room contains an explicit scene that repeatedly shows Tommy's bare backside as he feigns making love to his cinematic love interest, whose bare shoulders are the only thing visible. (Before filming begins, we also see Tommy nude from the front, with only a codpiece covering his genitals.) The crew wonders why Tommy's movements seem to be aimed more at the woman's belly button than her crotch.

Later, the resulting scene plays during a screening of The Room: Again, Tommy's bare behind is fully on display, with most of those in the audience reacting in abject horror and disgust.

Tommy's fictional love interest in The Room is repeatedly described as "sexy" and "hot." There's a scene in The Room where Johnny, Lisa and their male teen neighbor playfully frolic and wrestle on a bed, with the boy saying he'd like to stick around and watch what he hopes is going to happen next. They shoo him away before (presumably) they have sex. During the finished movie, we see this scene repeated, along with a few other glimpses of Johnny and Lisa in bed (with anything critical obscured by a small waterfall). In the fictional movie, Mark (Greg's character) and Lisa are supposed to have an affair, which we hear about. We also see scenes in which she comes on to him.

Tommy jokes about sharing a bed with Greg. (He says it was only a joke.) When Greg begins dating a young woman named Amber, Tommy is jealous of her and her influence over Greg. And when Greg and Amber announce they're moving in together, Tommy excuses himself to kick several newspaper stands and shout (well away from Greg and Amber's hearing) about how betrayed he feels.

Greg and Amber spend time in a pool in bathing suits. Tommy sometimes goes shirtless, admiring his own physique. When he's about to shoot a scene, the woman in charge of costuming suggests that he loses one of his belts—preferably the one that hangs below his crotch. He refuses, saying the belt makes his butt look "sexy." We hear a reference in The Room to someone who had "a dozen guys."

Violent Content

When Tommy kicks newspaper stands, he hurts his foot. Tommy and Greg get into a fight and wind up wrestling in a park.

The Room concludes with Johnny's suicide. Distraught over Lisa's cheating, he puts a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. During the filming, he actually "shoots" himself twice, for some reason, with the first shot followed by a great deal of writhing, after which he decides to shoot himself again. (Nothing actually happens with the gun either time, except for perhaps an audible "click.") During a screening of the movie, Johnny's suicide is preceded with shouts from the audience to "do it." We see Johnny's lifeless body lying on a blood-soaked pillow.

Elsewhere in The Room, a boy is threatened and beaten by a drug dealer. Someone falls down while playing football in a tux. Lisa accuses Johnny of beating her, and we hear other conversations that make mention of physical assault.

Crude or Profane Language

About 65 f-words, 17 s-words and several other profanities, including "a--," "b--ch," "h---" and "p---y." There's one use of a harsh slang term for oral sex. God's name is misused about 15 times, a quartet of those with the word "d--n." Jesus' name is abused twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Characters drink beer and champagne. One scene takes place in a bar. Tommy smokes cigarettes, as does Greg's agent. The Room includes a character who's a drug dealer.

Other Negative Elements

Tommy can be a real jerk to his cast, culminating during one day of shooting where he shows up four hours late, refuses to turn on the air conditioning (too expensive) and doesn't distribute water. When one of the movie's elderly cast members faints, Greg rushes over to help. Tommy excuses his role in the matter, saying she fainted because "she's old lady," not because of the heat.

Tommy also berates his leading lady for not being beautiful enough when they're about to do a sex scene. He insults much of his crew and, we later learn, spies on them via a "making of" cameraman who's been taping pretty much every conversation. When Greg suggests Tommy should stop being suck a jerk, Tommy excuses his actions by pointing to the supposedly tyrannical techniques of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock, saying that people cried on the set every day while shooting those famous directors' movies.

Tommy builds a special bathroom for himself on set and announces that only he can use it. Later, we see one of the crew sneaking out of the bathroom, having committed a small act of rebellion.

Conclusion

Tommy had a dream. Turns out, it was a terrible, terrible dream.

The Room has become one of the most notorious pieces of anti-art in cinematic history, and a flop besides. The real Tommy Wiseau allegedly spent about $6 million of his own mysterious money to make the thing: According to a closing slide, it made just $1,800 during its initial theatrical run, despite Wiseau paying to keep it in theaters for several weeks in hopes of qualifying for the Oscars.

But life does love its little ironies: By staying true to his warped cinematic ethos and creating an unmitigated disaster of a film, Wiseau has become an accidental icon. His movie has found new life in midnight movie screenings and on DVD, and it has since turned a profit. As comic actor Adam Scott says in a lead-up to the movie, more people are watching and talking about The Room today than recent Best Picture Oscar winners.

Tommy Wiseau wanted to be a star. And so he is, even if he had to come to terms with his own cinematic failings (or explaining them away, claiming he meant to make a comedy all along). And his experience offers a lesson—be it a strange hope or a cautionary tale—that sometimes even when our dreams come true, they don't look quite like we expected.

The Disaster Artist is far from the disaster that The Room was—at least asethetically. This movie, directed and starring James Franco, has its moments. And, given the other films featuring onscreen pals Franco and Seth Rogen (who plays The Room's longsuffering script manager), it's perhaps marginally less content-laden than one might expect.

But that caveat is a little like saying that Tommy is relatively normal when compared to, say, Jeffrey Dahmer. It's true, but that doesn't make him normal. Explicit content turns The Disaster Artist into a bad movie about a bad movie. And in this case, two wrongs don't make a right, no matter how wrong they might be.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Comedy

Author

Cast

James Franco as Tommy Wiseau; Dave Franco as Greg Sestero; Alison Brie as Amber; Ari Graynor as Juliette Danielle; Josh Hutcherson as Philip Haldiman; Jacki Weaver as Carolyn Minnott

Director

James Franco ( )

Distributor

A24

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

December 1, 2017

On Video

March 13, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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