First DISASTER ARTIST Picture Plays Up The Played Out THE ROOM
The Room is boring. I don't just mean the movie is boring - it really is, which is one of the reasons I was never able to embrace it the way others did - but that the whole phenomenon is boring. It's the most 21st century version of a bad cult movie - the people behind it and involved with it have all figured out ways to cash in and monetize and turn what might have been a weird piece of outsider art into a commodity. One of the things I really like about Tim Burton's Ed Wood is the way it gives the filmmaker his dream at the end - not a bunch of money and convention appearances, but a premiere, an opportunity to present his vision to the world on his own terms. Ed Wood Jr is an intriguing filmmaker not just for the infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space but because his other films give us such an insight into himself and his fetishes and his inner life. That's why I love really bad cult movies, because they are artistically pure, they're unfiltered glimpses into the psyches of the weirdos who made them. I'd rather watch any Neil Breen opus or John Rad's Dangerous Men than The Room any day because a) those films weren't cheap excuses to filter mob money and b) they're actually the product of guys who think they have something to say. The Room is only incompetent.
I'm sure it's that surface-level incompetence that has allowed the cult of The Room to flourish; it's pretty obvious that you're watching something ineptly made at all times, and the film's weirdness is actually rather flatly mainstream. It's a bad version of a recognizable sort of movie, and The Room operates on the same level as watching children re-enact famous movie scenes. It's so cute that they're going through the motions without ever truly understanding it! The work of true outsider filmmakers is rarely as comforting, and many of them mix technical incompetence with a complete disregard for form or structure or tropes that lends their movies a hallucinatory quality that is confrontational in the extreme. The Room is Baby's First Bad Movie, a film slick enough to be digestable and safe enough to appeal to the kind of people who don't know what psychotronic is.
Part of the appeal of The Room, I suspect, is the way the people involved have embraced it. Tommy Wiseau goes to conventions and throws footballs with people. He attends screenings and brings the spoons to toss at the screen. Greg Sesteros wrote a book about the whole thing, and many of the cast members have attempted to trade in on their involvement in this bizarre relic. Having the creators laughing along takes away the frisson that true outsider art has, it disarms any feelings of exploitation or discomfort. Once Wiseau leaned into it, it became okay to laugh. You're not a jerk. Not that I think people who appreciate outsider art are jerks, it's just that to the kind of person who feels safe in The Room there's a discomfort in how someone like Wesley Willis is perceived. Because a lot of these people are only keying into the incompetence they can't see that appreciating outsider art extends beyond laughing at the bizarre and actually is all about embracing a totally unique and unsafe world view.
ANYWAY. Greg Sesteros wrote a book about the making of The Room, The Disaster Artist. I have heard that it's pretty good, but I have to admit that by the time it came out the cult of The Room, with its calcified call-and-response routines, had alienated me completely, so I've never read it. I'm sure Greg is honest and more than a little brutal, and hopefully he included all the tales of just what an enormous asshole the now-genial Uncle Tommy was at the time. That book got some notice, and then it got optioned and now James Franco, an art shark who must forever be moving forward into new projects lest he die, is adapting it and starring as Wiseau. His brother Dave is playing Greg (which creates a unique dynamic between two guys who really didn't like each other, from what I've heard). Franco released a picture of he and Dave in their costumes/wigs and it immediately bummed me out.
The only thing that doesn't bum me out is the way Franco has described his vision of The Disaster Artist: Boogie NIghts meets The Master. That's actually great, and intriguing and indicates that Franco is interested in the psychology behind the whole thing, not just in telling the wackadoodle story of a bunch of goobers who backed into a very successful bad film. That's why Ed Wood is great, because it looks at who Ed Wood is, although that movie celebrates him. By referencing The Master I get the sense that Franco is uninterested in turning Wiseau into a silly but sweetly sad figure like Ed Wood. I get the sense he's going to puncture the guy.
Of course if that's the case Wiseau will likely lean into it; his main talent seems to be that he can adapt himself to be anything the audience wants him to be. Wiseau went from weirdo artist to goofball character, maybe his third act will be owning up to being a Machiavellian creep.