The highly buzzed about biopic about “The Worst Movie Ever Made” starring James Franco premiered at SXSW, only to receive a standing ovation as the credits rolled. What is this so-called ‘worst movie ever made’, you might ask?
On June 27th, 2003, a film was released on two screens in LA for two weeks, grossing only $1,800 total. The low-budget indie was panned for nearly everything, most notably the writing and acting from Tommy Wiseau (who wrote, directed, starred in, and financed the film himself). When it became apparent just how blissfully unaware the film was, a strong cult following has since developed and it is continued to be shown at midnight in theaters alongside the U.S. à la Rocky Horror. Fans bring plastic spoons and footballs to throw (if you watch the film, which I highly recommend, you will understand) and yell lines at the screen. Back at the premiere, when Wiseau’s film was laughed at and mocked, no one could’ve expected it to grow to what it’s become today. Greg Sestero, the second lead actor, and best friend of Tommy Wiseau, wrote a book about his experiences on the set of the film and the level of mystery surrounding Tommy. No one knows where he got the money to finance the film, no one knows where his “accent” comes from, and his behavior can be described only as “unpredictable”.
James Franco, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg come along to adapt the book into a film, and rather than simply mock “The Room” and Wiseau, the film goes for a more empathetic, celebratory approach. As Rogen explained at the film’s Q&A, they wanted to explore WHY people love the film, and delve into the mind-set of an auteurist filmmaker that refuses to conform (and I don’t say that with a shred of irony). To boot is a tremendous performance from James Franco, who truly captures the look and mannerisms of Wiseau. It’s transformative in the way Charlize Theron portrayed Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Of course there is a lot of humor in the film, most of it comes from Tommy’s eccentric personality and arbitrary actions, however it’s always in a loving manner, applauding Wiseau for his uniqueness, never mocking or insulting. I think many will walk out, thinking twice about laughing at Wiseau’s film, or at least develop a sense of empathy for the man. Alongside Franco is his younger-brother Dave, co-starring as Greg Sestero, who serves as the character the audience is able to identify with. It’s no surprise he has wonderful chemistry with James, but there are a lot of scenes without Wiseau’s character and Dave carries the film surprisingly well.
This isn’t the big joke-of-a-film everyone was expecting it to be. This isn’t your typical raunchy comedy (in fact, this film just barely gets an R rating), it’s so much more than that. There’s genuine character development, performances, and an overall sense of appreciation and celebration for the craft of filmmaking. With the Academy becoming more and more progressive as of late (remember, Apatow’s Bridesmaids was nominated for TWO academy awards), there’s hope for this to become an awards contender, which it rightfully deserves.