In 2003, a movie called The Room debuted in Los Angeles. The movie was written, produced, directed by, and financed by Hollywood mystery Tommy Wiseau. It swiftly became beloved as one of the worst movies ever made and is now the subject of many a late-night screening involving audience participation, similar to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Tommy’s friend and co-star Greg Sestero eventually wrote a book about his friendship with Tommy and the experience making the now infamous movie. That book is the basis of this movie directed and produced by James Franco.
The story begins with Greg struggling through an acting class in San Francisco when he is about 18. He meets Tommy in the class, and is blown away by Tommy’s commitment (perhaps over-commitment is a better word) and asks to be his scene partner. Tommy is a mystery, refusing to say where he’s from, aside from New Orleans – despite a very clear eastern European accent. He seems to have an endless supply of money, despite not working, and he also refuses to tell anyone how old his is – continuing to state that he’s about the same age as Greg – which is clearly untrue. Greg introduces Tommy to several movies he was unfamiliar with, including James Dean’s work, and together, the two decide to move to Los Angeles to make it in the business.
Once in L.A., and after receiving several negative responses – Tommy decides to write, direct, and produce his own movie, talking Greg into starring in it. Together, they hire a cast and a crew, and set about making Tommy’s insane vision come to life.
After a brief falling out, the two reunite for the premiere, and the audience laughs just about through the entire movie at the terrible acting, lack of story, and poor production value. Tommy is at first distraught, but Greg helps him to realize that people love the movie – even if not in the way he meant them to. The movie ends with scenes from the original movie played side by side with scenes that were re-done for The Disaster Artist, and it is truly magical.
I was familiar with the Room before seeing this – mainly due to the episode of the How Did This Get Made Podcast about The Room with Greg Sestero. I was pleasantly surprised by this version. It ends up as a love letter to anyone who has a dream and the motivation to make it come true. It is surprisingly touching and charming, directed with just enough reality to allow you to believe that Tommy is crazy, but never pushed to finding him abrasive or despicable. The cast is just fabulous, and Franco made a point to surround himself with friends, which really helps center the focus on friendship.
- James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, and if you were unfamiliar with the Room or Tommy in general, you may be puzzled with his performance, or think he’s way over the top. That’s why it is such a good idea to layer the original movie scenes over the reshot scenes so that you can see exactly how accurate his portrayal is.
- Dave Franco plays Greg, and while much shorter than the real Greg, his earnest-ness and desire to help out his friend comes through. The wig is terrible. Since the entire movie is essentially James and Dave, their inherent fraternal chemistry really plays well into their on-screen friendship.
- Seth Rogen plays Sandy, the Script Supervisor who steps in to help direct the scenes that Tommy is in. His complete disbelief at the entire situation helps as an ‘in’ for the audience, and yes, he gets most of the comedic lines.
- Ari Graynor plays Juliette – the actress who plays Lisa in the Room. She’s mostly bewildered by the process, but does her best to stay professional throughout.
- Alison Brie plays Amber, a woman that Greg meets and begins dating when he moves to L.A.
- Jacki Weaver plays Carolyn, the woman who plays Lisa’s mom in the Room – with the infamous ‘breast cancer’ line that never comes back into the story.
- Paul Scheer plays Raphael, the Director of Photography who pairs with Sandy on his level of disbelief and is constantly arguing with Tommy – getting fired and rehired at least once.
- Zac Efron plays Dan, the actor who has one scene in the Room, and then shows up at the premiere. Honestly, I did not recognize him until the last sequence of the movie.
- Josh Hutcherson plays Phillip, the actor who plays Denny in the Room. He has lots of questions about his character: how old is he, what is his relationship to the other characters? True to the original movie, none of those seem to get answered.
- Megan Mullally plays Greg’s mom, who attempts to ask Tommy how old he is when he and Greg decide to move to L.A. – she does not get an answer.
- To round out the ‘How Did This Get Made’ podcast trifecta, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas also have small roles in the movie.
Overall, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. In general, I don't enjoy movies by this group of dudes - mainly because they are normally crass stoner movies, and that's just not in my wheelhouse. This however is a different type of story. It really is at its core a very simple story about friendship and chasing dreams. On top of that it’s really hilarious, so you should definitely see it.
8 out of 10 – fantastic. Gained points for the side-by-side scenes at the end.
Bonus Cast interviews: