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True Believer

James Franco is Tommy Wiseau in cryptic biopic

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ART IMITATES ART James Franco plays the director and actor of the 'so bad it's good' cult film 'The Room.'
  • ART IMITATES ART James Franco plays the director and actor of the 'so bad it's good' cult film 'The Room.'

This one's clearly for the fans. In The Disaster Artist, we watch actor and man of mystery Tommy Wiseau (James Franco, who also directed) devise his indie film The Room (2003)—widely considered one of the worst movies ever made, and with the cult following to prove it.

Bulked up and sporting dyed hair, Wiseau was a natural to play heavies—a "Caliban," one director (Bob Odenkirk) calls Wiseau after seeing him audition. Despite his distinctly Transylvanian appearance, Wiseau sought to be a mainstream romantic star, but there was the matter of the actor and director's peculiar manner of speech. Wiseau claimed he was from the bayou. One clue: a passing mention of an accident that almost killed him—was this the cause of something that would interest a speech therapist? ("Waaa accent?" Wiseau asks here, incredulous.).

The Disaster Artist is strictly bromance. Wiseau whisks novice actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) to his L.A. apartment. Are there ulterior motives? Franco perfectly recreates Wiseau's acting ability to turn on a dime—"I did not hit her, I did not hit her!Oh, hi Mark"—and celebrates the seismic tonal shifts of The Room's deathless sex scene, in which a single long-stemmed red rose, flickering candles and fluttering chiffon curtains are juxtaposed with the humping of Wiseau's beefy behind.

The Disaster Artist is a benign salute to midnight-movie melodramas. As was the case with Tim Burton's Ed Wood, Franco gives Wiseau a gigantic klieg-light premiere for his film, a premiere that never happened in real life for either Wood or Wiseau.

When The Room became a hit, it seemed to particularly affect actors who never really know the measure of their worth and have to gamble on every role, little knowing how the movie they're acting in will play. They may not be able to write or direct, but they sure can feel.

'The Disaster Artist' is playing in wide release in the North Bay.

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