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Date TimeSeptember 13, 2017
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The story behind cult movie The Room is brought to life with affection and painstaking detail and features a staggering transformation from the lead

One of the overriding questions one has while enduring a particularly awful film is, with all of the talented out-of-work film-makers in Hollywood, just how on earth did this get made? Did no one take the time to really read the script? Couldn’t someone spot the signs during production? Didn’t anyone try to burn all available copies of the film before it limped onto the screen? There’s a certain sadistic pleasure in not only watching a “so bad it’s good” movie (a hobby that’s grown in popularity in recent years) but also to explore the tortured story behind the scenes.

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It’s especially fascinating when the finished product emerges in total earnest, seemingly produced by a team of people blissfully unaware of the horrors they have inflicted on an audience. Not many films conjure up this playful curiosity quite as much as 2003 oddity The Room. It’s a small budget drama that developed a cult status for its stilted acting, nonsensical plotting and indefinable central figure Tommy Wiseau. It was released in just one theater in LA, with a two week extension paid for by Wiseau himself to ensure that it qualified for Oscar consideration. The compellingly strange details of its production were turned into a book The Disaster Artist which has now made its way to its inevitable resting place: the big screen.

Greg (Dave Franco) is a 19-year-old struggling actor living in San Francisco. He struggles not just because of the impossibly competitive nature of the industry but also because, well, he’s not that good. In acting class, he’s finding it hard to lose himself in a scene, a problem that is quite notably not shared by boisterous classmate Tommy (James Franco). The pair begin to bond, Greg envious of Tommy’s apparent confidence and Tommy jealous of Greg’s “baby face” looks. Tommy is a frustrating enigma, his age, place of birth and source of income all remaining a mystery but his enthusiasm compels Greg to stick with him.

After the two move to Los Angeles, they both try plotting their individual routes into the industry but Tommy’s eccentricities and Greg’s stiffness mean that their careers fail to take off. After yet another rejection, they hatch a plan: why not make their own movie? Tommy heads to his typewriter and before long, The Room is ready for production with himself playing the lead and Greg nabbing a major part. But as the cameras start to roll, Greg discovers that he’s underestimated Tommy’s quirks and overestimated his talents.

While it’s not entirely essential to have seen The Room before The Disaster Artist, it does elevate the experience, the script answering long-standing questions hardcore fans have had for years. Franco, who like Wiseau also acts as director here, has crafted a loving tribute to the film, its fans and also film-making in general. There’s a tendency to cast aside unfathomably bad movies, the belief that their lack of quality then dictates a lack of respect but Franco has assembled a painstaking recreation and a detailed exploration into a story that might never have been told.

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