BWW Reviews: THE DISASTER ARTIST Gives an Inside Look into THE ROOM
The Room, a 2003 film known as the "Citizen Kane of bad movies," celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The cult classic, about a banker (Tommy Wiseau) whose fiancée is sleeping with his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), has delighted audiences with its cheesy dialogue, awful cinematography, and cringe-worthy love scenes. Greg Sestero was written a memoir, The Disaster Artist, about his experience working on The Room and his relationship with Tommy Wiseau, who also produced, wrote, and directed the film.
Greg, as it turns out, had known Tommy years before the making of The Room. They met in a San Francisco acting class, and Greg, intrigued by Tommy's interpretation of a Shakespearean sonnet, asked to be Tommy's scene partner. What resulted was a years-long friendship that included a road trip to the place where James Dean died, and even a period where Greg and Tommy were roommates. (Think The Odd Couple, just... odder.) The book also describes in detail the making of the movie that will please die-hard Room fans. Highlights include the origin of the infamous on-set spoon stock photo, and the real reason why Mark inexplicably loses his facial hair halfway through the film.
One pleasant surprise to The Disaster Artist is the writing itself. Co-written with author Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist has a tongue-in-cheek narrative style that captures the humor-and horror-of Greg's experiences on and off the set. The descriptions of Tommy alone are enough to keep readers laughing throughout the book. One choice quote: "Tommy and I looked more like Marvel Comics nemeses than people who could be friends. I was a tall, sandy-blond Northern California kid. Tommy, meanwhile, appeared to have been grown somewhere dark and moist."
Another surprise: how far The Disaster Artist goes in describing Tommy's darker side and his resentment towards Greg. The book makes parallels to Sunset Boulevard and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which helps add to the cinematic drama. The authors even include quotes from both films at the beginning of each chapter. That practice usually annoys me; here, the quotes are always fitting-and very funny. And for those dying to know more about Tommy Wiseau's mysterious origins (he is notoriously tight-lipped in interviews), The Disaster Artist offers a series of vignettes about a boy named "T-" that read like Fitzgerald's rendering of James Gatsby née Gatz. Whether the stories, described as "fantastical, sad," and "self-contradictory," are truth or fiction, they are definitely engaging and heartbreaking.
The Room may be a terrible movie, but The Disaster Artist is not a terrible book. It is a brilliantly told story of a troubled man who had a crazy dream-and his friend who was even crazier enough to join him.