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Film review: The Disaster Artist

Citizen lame: James Franco is Tommy Wiseau

THE BIG RELEASE

The Disaster Artist (15)

★★★★✩

THERE’S no shortage of SBIG (So Bad It’s Good) films out there. Guilty pleasures such as Showgirls and Troll 2 spring to mind. But The Room (not to be confused with last year’s Oscar nominee, Room) is so uniquely, intoxicatingly awful it’s become a global cult phenomenon since its 2003 release. So much so, it’s now got its very own (kind of) tribute film.

The Orson Welles behind The Room, often dubbed the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies’, was one Tommy Wiseau (played here by an Oscar-worthy James Franco), The Room’s eccentric star/writer/producer/director. A bizarre character of indeterminate age, with Michael Jackson-style black ringlets, a vampiric pallor, an Eastern European drawl (despite insisting he’s from New Orleans) and a voice like he’s speaking through a faceful of plastic surgery (possibly he is — there’s so little we really know about him), Wiseau set out to make The Room, funded with his own money, after being told by an LA producer that, as an actor, ‘it’s not going to happen for you. Not in a million years’. Wiseau’s initial response: ‘But after that?’

That unshakeable belief in his own talent — ‘I don’t want a career, I want my own planet!’ — is what inspires an admiring friendship from younger actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco, James’s real-life little brother), on whose memoir The Disaster Artist is based. It lends an affecting bromantic arc to what’s otherwise a wildly hilarious ‘making of’ account of The Room’s hair-tearing shoot.

The result is a pitch-perfect blend of pastiche and pathos. Director/star James Franco allows us to laugh at Wiseau’s atrocious acting, incomprehensible direction and oddball vanity but also encourages us to respect his creative spirit. Wiseau was so convinced of his film’s genius he paid to screen it in a cinema for two weeks so it could qualify for the Oscars.

The Disaster Artist is a tragicomedy of self-delusion that celebrates the communal joy only truly awful, passionately non-ironic, artistic expression can bring.

‘Best thing I can say about this is nobody will ever see it,’ says Seth Rogen, as Wiseau’s beleaguered script supervisor. How wrong he was.

The Verdict

Crazily hilarious comedy about the best worst film ever made

There will be tears

Wonder (PG)

★★★✩✩

BASED on a New York Times bestseller, this is the rose-tinted story of ten-year-old Auggie Pullman. Born with a facial deformity, Auggie (Room’s Jacob Tremblay, successfully emoting behind prosthetics) has had 27 operations on his face before his well-off and groovy parents (Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts) decide he should finally bite the bullet and go to (private) school like a ‘normal’ kid. But will his new schoolmates see beyond Auggie’s appearance and accept him for the special person he is inside? No spoilers!

The chapter shifts between different characters’ perspectives give the narrative unexpected universal nuance, making this more than the syrupy medical weepie it might appear. That said, best brace your tear ducts for some hardcore pumping.

Origins of Scrooge

The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG)

★★★✩✩

DAN STEVENS brings a dash of Downton to a festive period romp that’s all cobbles, orphans and ‘ooh, Mr Thackeray’-style badinage. It’s 1843 and a young Charles Dickens (Stevens) has had three flops in a row, is deeply in debt and is suffering from writer’s block. The arrival of his sponging dad (Jonathan Pryce) prompts the idea for a book, though, and before you can say ‘bah, humbug’ he’s writing A Christmas Carol.

The backstory behind that classic is the meat of this movie, largely inspired by Dickens’s childhood in the workhouse. Despite such dark shading it’s a merry old charmer crammed with old thesps (Simon Callow, Miriam Margolyes, Christopher Plummer), with Morfydd Clark excellent as Dickens’s wife.