The Disaster Artist ★★★★

Reviewed on Cinema Eclectica.

In one of the stories from Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell's source memoir that doesn't make it into James Franco's film, Sestero wins - if "win" is the right word - the lead role in Charles Band's Retro Puppet Master. Among the other young actors who auditioned for that part was another fresh-faced up-and-comer with a James Dean fixation: James Franco.

I can imagine Franco, in the days when he was insisting his cameo on a soap opera was performance art, making heavy metafictional weather out of that coincidence. In The Disaster Artist it's in the subtext, as is the irony of one of the most successful multihyphenates in modern Hollywood playing one of the most notorious. Franco believes that this material deserves a wide audience, which is strange - The Room began as a weird LA in-joke, and for a lot of The Disaster Artist's audience it probably still is. But from its opening round of celebrity cameos to its sly spin on the "photos of the real people during the end credits" biopic convention, it makes you feel like you're in on the joke.

In "Cinema Crudité", the Harper's article that no doubt got him the co-writer's job, Bissell says the hardest thing to laugh at in The Room is Wiseau's desire to be seen as American. For me it's always the treatment of Juliette Danielle, by Wiseau and his fans, that sticks in my throat. Although she doesn't have enough screen time, I was pleased to see the perpetually underrated Ari Graynor playing her here, giving her some masterfully bewildered reaction shots as Tommy fluffs his hundredth take. The film takes her side, too, making it an unexpectedly trenchant contribution to the debate on sexism in Hollywood. Franco's Wiseau cites Hitchcock and Kubrick as excuses for why he behaves like a tyrant on set, and this, I think, is the same mistake people like Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner and Bryan Singer make. Internalising the idea that geniuses must behave like entitled dicks will certainly make you act like a dick. It won't make you a genius, though.

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