By VICTORIA HILLS ’14
Editor in Chief
“‘The Room’ is an electrifying American black comedy about love, passion, betrayal, and lies. It’s what happens in real life. You could be with your loving woman and all of a sudden BOOM! She’s in bed with your best friend or a family member.”
Unfortunately, I can’t claim ownership of this brilliant prose. These words were doubtlessly penned by Tommy Wiseau, the creator, director, producer, writer and protagonist of “The Room” a 2003 “movie” and cult classic. The preceding paragraph is the synopsis that appears on the back of the DVD jacket and is actually a fair description of the film, since “The Room” is roughly as nonsensical as these words make it seem.
Called “the Citizen Kane of bad movies,” “The Room” leaves viewers questioning why such a complete disaster was ever committed to film, who the hell Tommy Wiseau actually is and their own sanity. To resolve the film’s innumerable unintentional mysteries, Greg Sestero, a lead actor in the film and Wiseau’s longtime friend, teamed up with acclaimed journalist Tom Bissell to pen a dramatic nonfiction narrative recounting the creation of “The Room.” The result was “The Disaster Artist,” a hilarious and appropriately irreverent page-turner released Oct. 1 that lends truth to the adage “truth is stranger than fiction.”
If I were capable of summarizing “The Room” in a couple cute sentences, I would walk away from Wellesley College and never look back; there’d be nothing more my professors could teach me. Wiseau meant it to be the tale of a doomed love triangle between Wiseau’s character, Johnny, and Johnny’s fiancée, Lisa and his best friend, Mark. But the film is actually a bizarre and accidentally hilarious concoction of horrific acting, abandoned plot points, lingering and irrelevant shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, badly dyed hair and supremely unappealing sex.
“Disaster Artist” not only acknowledges these absurdities but relies on their embellishment. Fans of “The Room,” who even now fill theaters to capacity to perform rituals reminiscent of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” will be endlessly delighted by Sestero’s anecdotes. At last we receive context (but not quite explanations) for the film’s previously unfathomable inclusion of an irrational drug dealer, terminal breast cancer, softcore sex on a spiral staircase, Wiseau’s nasty backside, an overweight pug lounging on a flower store countertop and more football than the average NFL fan sees in a year.
“The Room” is so brilliantly uproarious because nothing makes sense, and this senselessness is clearly the unintenional result of an exceptionally poor understanding of plot and cinema. “Disaster Artist” hints at why Wiseau fails so spectacularly to produce the great film he attempted to create, but mostly it just writes Wiseau off as a disconnected, self-absorbed, blustering sort of fool. Sestero’s recollections of his weeks on set invoke nearly non-stop laughter in the reader, but occasionally it becomes uncomfortably obvious that we’re laughing at Wiseau, whose actions are rarely defended.
Sestero, who by his own admission received both friendship and support from Wiseau, describes the resentment that brewed inside him throughout the filming of “The Room.” “It’s pretty obvious that I mailed in my performance throughout the entire production,” Sestero writes, revealing how little effort he put into a project that was Wiseau’s greatest dream and which he was paid handsomely for. The disdain of the cast and crew, who were admittedly bullied and mistreated by Wiseau, is documented at length, and Sestero emerges as an unsympathetic and occasionally cruel narrator. “Disaster Artist” portrays a “weird, inscrutable, unpredictable” Wiseau while simultaneously detailing the extent to which he poured his heart, soul and savings into the film. The dichotomy is an unpleasant one.
“Disaster Artist” is a book for everyone who has seen “The Room” and marvelled at its omnipresent ludicrousness. There’s hardly a gorgeously crafted description that doesn’t provoke laughter. Despite Sestero’s liberal brutality, discovering how exponentially more absurd the film’s production was than “The Room” itself is certain to delight.
Victoria is a senior studying history and biology. Follow her on Twitter @HillsVictoriaM.