Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Enjoyable Disaster Artist Still Can't Explain The Room

Reviews of "The Disaster Artist" and "Thelma," plus local movie news and notes.

Photos by Justina Mintz. Courtesy of A24.

If you’re not familiar with “The Room,” the 2003 drama charitably described as outsider art (but honestly described as the cinematic equivalent of a train crashing into a bus that is simultaneously on fire and falling off of a cliff), there’s no way to fully capture it.

No one has come closer than writer Tom Bissell: “‘The Room’ is like a movie made by an alien who has never seen a movie, but has had movies thoroughly explained to him.”

Bissell co-wrote “The Disaster Artist” with Greg Sestero, who co-starred in “The Room.” “The Disaster Artist,” in written form, is an account of Sestero’s relationship with Tommy Wiseau, the enigmatic and intimidating writer/director/producer/star of “The Room.” The mysteries around Wiseau fill the book and could fill more; in short, no one is particularly sure where he comes from, how old he is, where his seemingly endless supply of money originates or (vitally) why he cannot seem to understand everyday human behavior and speech patterns.

The film version of “The Disaster Artist,” directed by James Franco (who also stars as Wiseau, in a flawless imitation), arrives on Pittsburgh screens today. Evaluating it is hard; I’ve seen “The Room” a dozen times, and I read the book with breathless fascination. So I come to Franco’s film both with the eagerness of an aficionado and a healthy dose of the-book-is-better skepticism.

“The Disaster Artist,” which takes liberty with the facts in the pursuit of a direct narrative, documents the unlikely friendship between Sestero (played by Dave Franco, James’ younger brother) and Wiseau, who meet in an acting class before moving to Los Angeles; frustrated by failure, they decide to make their own film.

Much of the book was indeed concerned with the curious relationship between the two; in the film, Sestero is charmed by Wiseau’s uncanny confidence while Wiseau is happy just to have someone around who doesn’t laugh him off. That’s a fairly solid basis for the movie’s actual mission — recreating the bizarre, hilarious and incompetent filming of “The Room” — but it does feel a little perfunctory.

“The Disaster Artist” is produced by Seth Rogen (who co-stars) and Evan Goldberg, among others. That’s notable because nearly every movie produced by this team — many involving one or more Francos — are fundamentally about male friendship; “Superbad,” “Pineapple Express,” “50/50,” “This is the End,” “Neighbors,” “The Night Before,” even “The Interview.” All of these movies have explored this territory — so why, despite the morbidly fascinating subject that is Tommy Wiseau, are we treading the same ground again?

This repetitive theme doesn’t sink “The Disaster Artist,” because the subject matter is just so ridiculous — and Franco’s performance is so perfect and dedicated — that the movie can’t help but be a breezy, good time. It may not be more than a curiosity (but a pleasant one) if you haven’t seen “The Room,” but if you have been indoctrinated into that cult of hilarious failure, you’ll laugh along from beginning to end.


The vagaries of the December release schedule left last Friday without any new, wide releases to speak of (a trend that will change later in the month; there’s a flood of prestige pics waiting for the coming “Star Wars” tsunami to clear). But a thriller deserving of more attention opened last week at the Harris Theater (and will stick around through the 14th).

“Thelma,” from Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier, stars Eili Harboe as a sheltered young woman attempting to make her way through college. She keeps to herself and is bereft of friendship; loneliness is staved off by her invasive, prying parents, who check up on every class and meal via phone. When Thelma starts experiencing unexplainable seizures — some accompanied by bizarre circumstances nearby — the mystery sets in.

With the spirit of “Carrie” and the tone of recent suspense flicks such as “Girl on the Train,” “Thelma” is a compelling and captivating piece of dark filmmaking (and an outside contender for a Best Foreign Language Film nom at the Oscars). There are plenty of great movies to catch up with this month, but “Thelma” should not be overlooked.


The Montage: Speaking of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers cinemas, they’re one of the last places in town still capable of projecting actual film (rather than digital images). At the Melwood Screening Room, they’re showing “Porto,” featuring the late Anton Yelchin in one of his final roles, in 35mm ... A celebration of Studio Ghibli continues for another week at Row House Cinema, including “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” recent Oscar nominee “The Wind Rises” and more ... The documentary “Bill Nye: Science Guy” runs this week at the Hollywood Theater ... ’Tis the season indeed at AMC Waterfront 22, where the classic movie series will include “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” in upcoming weeks ... Finally, a programming note: A review of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will indeed appear in this space, but on Wednesday rather than Friday. Check back here next week so that I can confirm the movie is good, as if you had any doubt.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As of a film, there are issues.

Popular Peter's Pub Announces Final “Last Call”

The owners of the Oakland Avenue bar announced on Facebook they have decided to retire -- but are planning one last “hoorah.”

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Looking for a Royal Wedding Watch Party in Pittsburgh?

With the ceremony just hours away, several watch parties and live screenings of the nuptials have already sold out. But we found a few more places in Pittsburgh still taking guests whose invitations got lost in the mail.

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Sunrise, Sunset: Pittsburgh Playhouse's Second Act

The curtain is closing this month on the historical Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland, but it will rise again when Point Park University this fall unveils its new theater Downtown, a space with a history of its own.

A Matter of Pride: Delta Foundation's Struggles with Success

Within the span of 10 years, the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh has brought the city’s annual Pride festival to previously unimaginable heights. That growth, however, has left some members of the community behind — and unhappy.

Remembering Bruno Sammartino: “The Italian Superman”

The storied grappler captured the imagination — and the hearts — of generations of Pittsburghers.

Best Restaurants 2018

This year we recommend 40 establishments as our region's top restaurants.For the second year in a row, we categorize the restaurants in All-Arounders, Killer Casual, Fancy Night Out and Classic Pittsburgh to help you find whatever suits your mood.

Chef of the Year: Jamilka Borges

Jamilka Borges, executive chef of Independent Brewing Company and Hidden Harbor, raises the bar with her dedication to volunteerism as well as her culinary prowess.

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

If You Jump, We Jump (At The Giant Bouncy House for Adults)

The world’s biggest bouncy house is coming to the Lawrence County Fair in New Castle.

The 400-Word Review: Deadpool 2

Can the sequel to the lightning-in-a-bottle superhero hit live up to its predecessor?

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.