Friday, December 1, 2017

even the worst day on a movie set

The Room is a must-see for fans of film. Mostly for reasons that are not good ones. I've watched it and written about it numerous times for this blog...

In that last one there, I wrote:

We can all laugh at how bad The Room is, sure. And it is bad. But, those actors put themselves out there, and made something. If more people did creative things, nevermind just how good or bad the results would be, we'd be better off. And being in their audience, especially together, we would be better off.

Today, I finally got to see The Disaster Artist, the movie about the making of The Room. But also, it is about more than that; one of the best things about The Disaster Artist (because it finds its basis in The Room costar Greg Sestero's book of the same name) is focusing on the friendship between Tommy and Greg. It finds them before they ever conceive of The Room, finds them desperate actors in search of somewhere to act, somewhere to be someone. Tommy has money--and no one can figure out from where (nor where he is from--he says New Orleans but no one believes him--or how old he is), but the way The Disaster Artist plays it, he never really makes a play to go be an actor until he's got someone to do it with. Eventually, after they move to Tommy's place in LA but don't get the work they want, they decide to make their own movie.


The Disaster Artist never quite reaches the brilliance of Ed Wood (my immediate comparison), mostly because in Tommy Wiseau it has a less expressive character who has to tell us that he wants to act and make a movie, because it is never clear that he is even enjoying it. Johnny Depp's Ed Wood clearly loved what he was doing; even when it went badly, he was so enraptured by and enamored with filmmaking that he didn't notice or didn't care. James Franco's Tommy Wiseau is determined, but hardly seems passionate. And, that attitude of hey we got the shot, even if it's not perfect comes from the exasperated crew rather than a director with rose-colored glasses; it makes for a very different tone on the film set within the film.

Additionally, a lot of The Disaster Artist feels like it would not play as well to an audience that has not seen The Room. (Unlike Ed Wood, which plays just as well whether you've seen any of his films or not.) Many scenes are really only funny in a South Park Member Berries sort of way. But, there are enough behind-the-scenes bits, conflicts with the crew, conflicts between Tommy and Greg (especially when Greg gets a chance to be on Malcolm in the Middle but has to choose between that and The Room), that offer something a more casual viewer of The Room, or someone who maybe hasn't seen it but still knows what it is, would enjoy. But, someone coming into The Disaster Artist cold--I'm not sure how well it would hold up.

In the end, it does support something positive. During the premiere of The Room, Tommy realizes that the audience is laughing at him, at his film, and he walks out. Greg runs after him and reminds him that whatever the reaction, it is still a reaction, a big one. Tommy, after the film, embraces the idea that the trainwreck that is The Room was exactly what he meant to make. And, the hangover text tells us that Tommy and Greg are still friends. Plus, no matter how bad the movie is--The Room that is--you can be entertained watching it. And, whatever difficulties there might have been on the set, everyone involved now has something unique and culturally amusing on their resume. And a great conversation starter.

We could use more conversation starters. Some things we can all agree on but still need to talk about--just how bad is The Room?

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