Monday, January 22, 2018

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero

Vox did a video about The Room recently with the co-author of this book, Tom Bissell, called Why people keep watching the worst movie ever made. He said of it in the interview: "[The Room] is like a movie made by an alien who has never seen a movie but has had movies thoroughly explained to him." 

That sentence is scarily appropriate, and goes a long way towards explaining why people thought this book was important enough that it not only deserved a book, but then a second movie based on that book. The story behind the movie's inception is almost as bizarre as the movie itself, if not more so.

In his memoir, Greg Sestero writes about how he met the creator of The Room, Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, intrigued by his odd behavior and pirate-like appearance. The book chronicles Sestero's own rise from minimum wage worker and discouraged aspiring actor to a B-list actor with a couple of serious roles under his belt. Meanwhile, in the background like the proverbial elephant, lurks The Room, and interwoven with Sestero's own narrative is the narrative of what it was like to be behind the set The Room..

And, of course, Wiseau's own narrative arc, as well.

Wiseau is one of those characters who is larger-than-life (hence the movie). At times he's hilarious and endearing, at other times, creepy and terrifying. His mood shifts made him difficult to work with and sometimes delayed production, because he had a vision and God help anyone who stood in the way of that. He basically funded this entire movie out of pocket, from a bottomless money hole that led some of the cast members to believe he had illicit ties to the mob. His history remains largely a mystery, although Sestero shares some of the details that he pieced together from the rare anecdote Wiseau thought fit to regale him with, and it seems like he was from an Eastern European country and became wealthy via the American Dream, by starting as a toy-seller in Fisherman's Wharf. Apparently his name is a corruption of Oiseau, which is French for "bird" (because the toys he sold were shaped like bird), although Wiseau himself does not appear to be French.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. It's darkly funny and utterly ridiculous. According to Vox, movies like The Room fall into a category of movies called "paracinema," because they're not typical movies and they are not really viewed by a typical audience. The Room, in particular, is a trash film - which I think is probably a nice way of saying "s***." It's funny, because while I was reading this, I was thinking about this documentary I watched a few years ago called Best Worst Movie (2009), which chronicles another trash film: Troll 2 (1990). I watched Troll 2 (although I haven't yet seen the room), and it's about as terrible as you might expect... but there is an art to that awfulness. The timing somehow works out to be so wrong, that rather than being scary, it ends up like a comedy.

My Wiki-hopping ended up taking me to a page of movies that are considered to be among the worst ever made. Troll 2 and The Room are both on it, but so are a number of movies that I actually like, such as The Avengers (not the superhero one), Batman & Robin, and Glitter. The Avengers is actually my favorite movie, B&R is my favorite Batman movie, and Glitter was my favorite movie when I was a middle schooler and didn't know any better. Showgirls is on there, as well, but Showgirls is basically the NC-17 version of Glitter, so as you can imagine, I also liked that movie, too. Apparently I have s*** taste in films. (But, again, according to that Vox article, liking trash films is apparently correlated with higher intelligence because they are "subversive." Which, now that I think about it, might go a long way towards explaining my attraction to bodice rippers and pulp.)

THE DISASTER ARTIST is the perfect length, in my opinion, and does a nice job balancing both Sestero's and Wiseau's stories. The humor is great, snappy, and witty, peppered with odd-ball humor that fits the subject. Sestero details his tempestuous relationship with Wiseau, and how he slowly but inevitably got dragged in on this crazy project along with the rest of the cast. You also get cool behind-the-scenes trivia, such as why certain lines were said, or why the outfits they're wearing are so weird, or why that one table in the living room is covered with framed pictures of spoons.

If you're at all interested in this movie, I highly suggest you read THE DISASTER ARTIST. Watching the movie isn't even necessary to enjoy it (I didn't), although I'm sure it helps. But if you want to feel like you've watched the movie without going through the effort, I urge you to watch CinemaSins's video, Everything Wrong With The Room In 8 Minutes Or Less.

What a crazy, crazy story.

4 out of 5 stars

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