The Disaster Artist

As we look back on the year that was, it is also a time to look forward to the year ahead and to dream up one’s list of goals, big and small, that make our ambitions real. As far as recent film releases with heart and ambition go, The Disaster Artist seemingly doesn’t fit. However, as any purveyor of movies by James Franco, Seth Rogen, et al. knows, at the heart of their comedy machine is a storytelling with heart, and in this sense, Disaster is no different.

The story of Tommy Wiseau and how he made The Room, infamously known as the “best worst movie of all time,” is still shrouded in some mystery. Although it is fairly well established that Wiseau came to the US from Eastern Europe (despite at first claiming to hail from New Orleans) and he claimed to have been 19 at the time of filming The Room (he was in his late 40s and is currently 62), no one is still quite sure of how he was able to back the film with $6 million out of his own pocket. It is these mysteries big and small, such as his undeterminable accent, that make him and his art so interesting, despite (or, more accurately, because of) its lack of basic understanding of drama.

These ingredients and this backstory make for both a quintessentially humorous undertaking from Franco and co., in addition to providing levity for the subtext that this is also, in a roundabout way, a story about the success of a newcomer to the US, which given the current political climate in the US is decidedly topical.

The extended version of the second trailer focuses on this dynamic: over top a plaintive piano, Franco as Wiseau opines that “Los Angeles; everyone want to be [sic] star. You have to be the best. And never give up!”

Wiseau’s nigh-inimitable accent and various stage antics provide a comedic contrast to the piano, which continues on unabated. We see Wiseau rejected by Judd Apatow (as himself?) and others, and we see the relationship between Greg Sestero and Wiseau blossom, with Sestero in awe of Wiseau’s self-assured demeanor and his unassailable confidence.  In 2013, Sestero published the tell-all about making The Room that inspired Franco to approach Wiseau about an adaption of the book in the first place.

At 0:43 we get the second part of this trailer, with a title card underlining its almost unbelievable status as a “true story.” What sounds like an 80s tune is in fact a contemporary throwback by Ace Marino from the record Cocaine Flamingo, titled “Communication.” The track (and album) is published and used by the trailer house Position Music. At 0:58 we see Rogen for the first time, as the director Sandy; the music kicks up a notch. At 1:06 we get our first drop out of the music as Wiseau argues with Sandy about re-creating an alleyway unnecessarily. This is a standard use of music and silence in the comedic trailer, so as to emphasize the punch line. At 1:28 we hear a single lyric from the music track – “communication” – just as we see Wiseau break down, both acting on set as well as off of it, as he argues with Sestero and other with regards to his artistic vision and whether it is being respected.

When Franco was on The Tonight Show to discuss the film with Jimmy Fallon, he argued that these basic desire – to make it in Hollywood; for one’s artistic vision to be accepted, respected, and to be met with success – are universal, both amongst those vying for stardom, as well as a basic human desire. These facts help the one to empathize with Wiseau, however ridiculous his acting may be; as bad as The Room admittedly clearly is, there’s a passion that went into it that, in its own way, did not go unnoticed. Indeed, The Room still plays in theatres across North America on a regular basis, fourteen years after its release.

After another stop in the music for a second punch line, at 1:57 the music really ramps up and we see the title card for the film. A couple of sight gags later, the trailer ends rather softly (the first trailer follows it in the embedded video above).

Musically speaking, the 80s soundtrack isn’t necessarily pointing to the popular music landscape at the time The Room was filmed (in the early 2000s); yet, it feels right. As a comedy that is both based on a true story and certainly stranger than fiction, the laid-back sounds that Position Music has opted for here aims to gently support what’s there, rather than actively vie for one’s attention.  It’s the sensibility of the musical selection that allows the zaniness of Wiseau to breathe in this trailer, while also helping to humanize him, which appears to be a correlate goal of this film as a comedy, but also in some sense as a documentary.

Happy holidays, Tommy Wiseau.

– Curtis Perry