The Disaster Artist is about the making of The Room, one of the “best bad movies” ever made. The story of how writer/director/producer/actor Tommy Wiseau and his friend Greg Sestero made this durable piece of shlock has its own legend, and James Franco’s film, based off Sestero’s book of the same name, is a loving tribute to both their friendship and to the movie itself.
But do you have to see The Room to appreicate The Disaster Artist? That’s where it gets a bit tricky?
On the whole, Franco and writers Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber have created a film that’s strong enough to stand on its own. Even if you never see The Room, you’ll understand that Sestero is an aspiring, handsome actor who becomes friends with the more confident, slightly unhinged Wiseau. You’ll see that Wiseau is oddly secretive, frequently consumed by his own insecurities, and completely inept when it comes to filmmaking, writing, acting, or any artistic endeavor. But because the friendship between Sestero and Wiseau is the core of the movie, then you don’t need to be well-versed in The Room to appreciate the emotional or comedic stakes of The Disaster Artist.
That being said, having seen The Disaster Artist with two audiences, one comprised of people who clearly knew the film backwards and forwards, those who are fans of The Room will get more out of The Disaster Artist because there are so many callbacks to how certain scenes came about. You’re basically getting “more” of something you already love by having a group of talented comedic actors poke fun at the incompetence of the production, or rather, Wiseau’s inability to do anything right from delivering his lines to writing the script to doing a sex scene.
But chances are you’re not going to become a die-hard fan of The Room in the next few weeks, so if you want to be best prepared for The Disaster Artist, what’s the best way to view Wiseau’s movie? Should you see it at a boisterous screening filled with fans who know all the audience-participation bits, or should you watch it in the privacy of your own home?
The answer lies in between. You definitely shouldn’t make your first viewing of The Room an audience-participation screening. Those can be a blast once you know the basic beats of the film, but with people shouting and joking over every line, you won’t be able to get a baseline of what’s going on. However, The Room is kind of a slog if you watch it on your own because while it’s certainly terrible and bizarre, it’s not really outlandish enough to hold your attention. The plot is about a guy, Johnny (played by Wiseau), who everyone thinks is great, and then his girlfriend cheats on him with his best friend. It’s a simple story told in the worst way possible.
The ideal way to watch The Room for the first time is to track down a copy (the film is tough to find streaming, but you can get the DVD for $11 on Amazon), and then get together with a group of friends, preferably folks who haven’t seen the film either. That way, you can poke fun of the movie with likeminded folks, but not lose track of what’s happening.
Keep in mind that viewing The Room isn’t mandatory, and you should see The Disaster Artist even if you haven’t seen The Room. You’ll just get slightly more out of The Disaster Artist if you’ve seen Wiseau’s epic misfire.
Just a minor note: If you start the movie and you see Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson, you messed up.