The Disaster Artist is director and star James Franco's fitting and heartfelt tribute to a dreamer. A man who wanted nothing more than to succeed in Hollywood and become a big star. Tommy Wiseau may not have intended to create one of the best worst films ever made, but it made him and his best friend Greg Sestero stars of their own light. This film chronicles the arduous making of that infamous film and the brotherly friendship between its two leads. Franco delivers arguably his best behind the camera effort to date. Lionsgate gives The Disaster Artist a solid Blu-ray release with a great A/V presentation and an assortment of brief but worthwhile extras features. If you're looking for a companion piece to your viewing experience of The Room, this Blu-ray of The Disaster Artist is Recommended.
"I wish we could just make our own movie."
Considering the numerous "so bad they're amazing" movies that Hollywood has churned out over the last several decades, I'm surprised that there hasn't been more of a dedicated sub-genre of dark comedies about the making of these films. Taking a page from Tim Burton's classic Ed Wood, James Franco sets out to detail the making of the notorious and terribly entertaining The Room. Franco stars as the enigmatic auteur Tommy Wiseau while brother Dave Franco brings Wiseau's pal and partner in filmmaking Greg Sestero to life. It's how these brothers portray these friends that gives the film it's heart and soul in what is arguably James Franco's best effort behind the camera.
People with big dreams often remain dreamers. Sure, they may make inroads towards that dream, they may take a class, go to some networking events, maybe invest big money on equipment or materials to make their dream come true. Rarely do people actually make their dreams a reality. Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) dreams of becoming an actor. Living in San Fransisco with his mom, he takes acting classes, but he isn't really any good at it. As he struggles to even utter his lines in front of the class, one man's fearlessness inspires him. That man is Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). A dark and ominous shady-looking guy with jet-black hair, a strange accent, and near-limitless wealth; Tommy inspires Greg to be fearless and follow his dreams. Together the pair set their sights on making it big in Hollywood. As they quickly learn in order to make it in Tinsel Town, they're going to have to conquer it by making their own movie.
It's no small statement when I say that I love The Room. In the five years that my wife and I lived in Denver, we went to see the film at midnight screenings at the Esquire theater no less than 18 times. One of those times we actually got to meet Tommy and Greg. I can attest to the validity of the scene in The Disaster Artist where Tommy circles the block in a rented limousine at the premiere of his own film - he did the same thing in Denver only in a Taxi. I was the first person he shook hands with when he finally got out of the car with a clearly irritated theater manager and an exhausted-looking Greg Sestero following him.
When Sestero's book detailing the making of the infamous film came out, my wife and I devoured it in short order. Once James Franco announced he'd nabbed the rights and was aiming to make The Disaster Artist a film, I was hesitant. I didn't want there to be some sort of parody or mockery made of something like The Room. If you've seen the film, you know it isn't a great work of art, but its heart is in the right place. It's a work of a dreamer, someone who wanted to be the best and remembered and for all intents and purposes, Tommy's dream has come true - only probably not in the way he intended.
Thankfully Franco's approach to The Disaster artist is focused on the unlikeliest of friendships between Greg and Tommy. As much as this film is a making of biopic or sorts about The Room, it's as much a dissection of the relationship between Tommy and Greg. As the pair have been joined at the hip for the last fifteen years, they tour the world bringing this unlikely hit film to millions of people, it's this friendship that makes The Disaster Artist work. The film's heart comes from watching James and Dave nail their respective real-life counterparts. James' Tommy isn't a parody but is instead a look at a man who gave everything he had in the tank in order to bring his dream to life. Dave's Greg is also a naive dreamer who learns that life has a funny way of working out, even in ways you don't expect or plan. The real-life Sestero was very candid in his book that through the long and painful production that he didn't want to be remembered for being in The Room. People working on the film knew early on it was going to be bad. But what they didn't know - and maybe Tommy did - is that regardless of quality it would be a great film that people would continue to talk about long after the projector stopped and the house lights went up.
Ironically enough I have a hard time saying that the film of The Disaster Artist will enjoy the same fate. As we have talked about The Room for the last 15 years dissecting it and replaying our favorite terrible scenes, I don't see the same thing happening for this film. While it is easily James Franco's best work behind and in front of the camera, it's not altogether memorable removed from the association of The Room. It's a fine comedy-drama, and it is satisfying while often being hilarious. That said, unlike The Room, there really isn't much need to go back for multiple viewings. It's funny and dramatic, but it isn't altogether legendary in that sense. People will still be lining up to see The Room at midnight screenings a long time from now but I doubt the same will happen for The Disaster Artist outside of a random double feature event.
As The Room earned a reputation for how hilariously bad it was, The Disaster Artist has it's own more unfortunate reputation to deal with. In the wake of James Franco's Golden Globe win for Best Actor (something the Blu-ray artwork notably omits), Franco's own poor history of mistreatment and what could only be described as abuse towards women came to light. It's a sad pall that shades what is otherwise a fine film. Whether or not people choose to pay attention to the allegations made against James and let that influence their opinions of the film remains to be seen. For myself, it makes things muddy. It's difficult to sing the praises of a work of art when the artist allegedly behaves like a scumbag. The one thing I remain happy about with The Disaster Artist is that influenced more people to leave home and actually go see The Room in theaters. Even though I own the film, seeing it at home just isn't the same. You need to be in a crowd of people armed with a bag of plastic spoons to fully enjoy Tommy Wiseau's masterpiece.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Disaster Artist lands on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital set. Pressed onto a Region A locked BD-50 disc, the discs are housed in an eco-friendly Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for other Lionsgate releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
Color me a tad bit surprised that The Disaster Artist is only available on a 1080p SDR Blu-ray. Having been shot at 6K and finished on a 4K DI, this would have been a perfect opportunity to showcase what the UHD format can bring to a small production, but for now, Lionsgate seems to be sitting on it. As it is, this 2.39:1 1080p transfer is pretty damn beautiful. Details are robust allowing you to see and appreciate the transformation James Franco went through to become Tommy Wiseau, as well as recreating numerous scenes and sets from The Room. Colors are bold and beautiful favoring golden tones giving the movie a sunny dream-like quality. Primaries get plenty of pop and presence, reds tend to stands out nicely. Black levels are also spot on allowing for a nice three-dimensional presence to the image - it's especially great when you see their recreations of scenes of The Room where really cheap needless green screen was employed and how goofy that sense of depth can get with an artificial background. The resolution and clarity make these moments really come to life displaying the care and attention to the little details. There is a tad bit of video noise in a couple spots, but nothing too serious. Taken as a whole, this is a great image that could only get better with a 4K UHD Blu-ray release.
The Disaster Artist comes packed with a somber and effective Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio mix. As this is a very conversationally focused film, most of the oomph and punch of the mix keeps to the front/center channels allowing the surrounds to develop a sense of atmosphere and space to any given scene. That isn't to say that this film doesn't make good use of surround activity because it does. Scenes like where Tommy and Greg act out a play in a busy restaurant or the big movie premier offer up plenty of great surround activity. These moments are really lively and offer up a terrific presence in the mix. Scoring by Dave Porter helps round out the mix making sure that the film keeps a rich but effective sonic presence. Apparently the film was also given an Atmos mix for theatrical viewings, so hopefully, Lionsgate decides to get fans that 4K UHD Blu-ray release someday soon so we can truly see and hear how the film was intended to be experienced.
While the audio commentary is active, lively, and informative, the rest of the bonus features presented here is a bit "meh" overall. They mostly cover the traditional EPK talking head stuff. Overall this isn't a bad assortment, just not very insightful considering the legacy of the film it's trying to bring to light.
Audio Commentary This is a big grouping as it features James and Dave Franco, Tommy Wiseau, Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, and author Greg Sestero by phone. This is easily the best feature of the show and offers up a lot of insight into the making of this film with Tommy providing his usually cagey and cryptic answers to direct questions.
Oh, Hi Mark: Making a Disaster (HD 13:07) There is some good material here, but it's pretty routine simple question simple answer EPK stuff.
Directing a Disaster (HD 7:07) This mostly focuses on Franco's behind the camera work with some talking head interview stuff from other cast and crew.
Just a Guy Leaning on a Wall: Getting to Know Tommy (HD 7:12) Unfortunately this is a very brief look at the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau with some more of the celebrity interviews that opened the film with a bit of actual interview material with the main man himself.
Gag Reel (HD 4:06) Your typical cutup scene screwups.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:13)
The Room is one of those films that for better or worse has achieved a legendary status as one of the greatest bad movies ever made. As it continues to populate midnight movies entertaining audiences the world over, The Disaster Artist pays fitting tribute to a pair of friends who made the film what it is today. This is easily James Franco's best outing behind the camera, offering plenty of hilarity and heart. Lionsgate brings The Disaster Artist to Blu-ray with a picture and audio presentation that could only be made better with a 4K UHD Blu-ray release. The included bonus materials may not be plentiful, but the commentary track is a must listen. At the end of the day, I'm calling this one Recommended.