The Disaster Artist: Creating a Cult Classic

By Seán McHugh

Golden Globe Best Feature nominee The Disaster Artist offers a dramatic recreation of the making of one of the world’s most polarising films: The Room. But what is it about the legacy of this cult classic that has kept audiences hooked and critics furious for the last 14 years?

 Dave Franco left and James Franco right attend the premiere of The Room in The Disaster Artist.

Dave Franco left and James Franco right attend the premiere of The Room in The Disaster Artist.

In the entire history of cinema there has never been a film quite like The Room. With a confusing and nonsensical plot the film is possible best described as a semi-autobiographical story revolving around director, producer, writer and star Tommy Wiseau’s friendship with co-star Greg Blank. Known as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” The Room has one of the biggest cult followings of any film, seeing the film return to cinemas for midnight screenings and special features around the world for the last 14 years. The Disaster Artist is the latest Golden Globe nominated film that tries to give an insight into the inspiration, writing, making and distribution of The Room. Based on Greg Sestero’s book of the same name, the film offers a behind-the-scenes narrative in the hopes of uncovering the mystery of what makes this cult film so incredibly popular. As stated at the beginning of The Disaster Artist “No one really remembers the Oscar Best Feature of 2001 but everyone remembers The Room”. But what is it about The Room and now The Disaster Artist that has created such a grand legacy that has outlived even some of the biggest Hollywood films?

 The infamous Hollywood billboard that Wiseau paid to keep up for 4 years to promote his film.

The infamous Hollywood billboard that Wiseau paid to keep up for 4 years to promote his film.

In one sense The Room is a triumph of independent film making. Wiseau paid from his own pocket to keep his 6 million dollar film in two L.A cinemas for two weeks to qualify for the Academy Awards but the films true success comes from its critical despise by Hollywood critics. Everything from its script, acting and plot to its backdrops and wardrobe received nearly completely negative reviews by film critics worldwide. And yet it is a triumphed success. Perhaps it’s the comical flaws of the film, the lack of awareness of its obvious failings or the admirable story of someone following their dreams of filmmaking regardless of its faults but The Room’s fans have immortalised it within film history as the best-worst movie ever made. What is almost ironic and comical is that The Disaster Artist is filled with some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars, celebrated by critics and receiving award nominations worldwide. The Disaster Artist is not a mockery of The Room, rather a sympathetic and heartfelt celebration of The Room and its fans. Whether intentional or not The Disaster Artist exposes the utter irony and unawareness of critics to never fully being able to grasp an understanding of audiences outside the Hollywood format. In a time of homogenised culture and filmmaking; The Room is an unusual victory of independent filmmakers against the apparently not-so all powerful Hollywood.

 Left James Franco and right Tommy Wiseau.

Left James Franco and right Tommy Wiseau.

What makes The Disaster Artist such a success is that the love for Wiseau’s film by the Franco’s Brothers shines through and captures the unusual uplifting quality of the original film. As the semi-autobiographical story of a film that accidentally becomes a parody of itself that is then parodied again by The Disaster Artist; it’s almost impossible to truly explain what Wiseau’s film actually means. The confusion and mystery of The Room mirrored in the The Disaster Artist is a source of endless comedy and perhaps its continued obsession by fans. Even after seeing the behind the scenes narrative that The Disaster Artist offers there are still huge questions that no one has the answers to. Who is the character Lisa meant to represent in the film? Where is Wiseau actually from? What age is he? And the biggest mystery of all, where he get the $6 million to make The Room?

 From left to right: Seth Rogan, Tommy Wiseau, James Franco, Greg Sestero, Dave Franco.

From left to right: Seth Rogan, Tommy Wiseau, James Franco, Greg Sestero, Dave Franco.

While the Franco brothers and cast revel in fantastic review and award nominations, the source material of The Room is not forgotten. Opening with Dave Franco’s character attempting a scene from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot it’s hard to not ask the question: Is The Room this generation’s Waiting for Godot? An accidental tragicomedy masterpiece? Probably not. But what has championed The Room’s and now The Disaster Artist’s success is the indescribable cult appeal that began back in 2001. A legacy sure to continue into the future, both of these films have received vastly different critical reactions but are united in representing the hilarious and yet uplifting triumph of two friends achieving their dream of success against the Hollywood system. It seems there is no stopping the best-worst movie of all time.

 

Kabyashree Saikia