The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s adaptation of the book that delved into the making of the infinitely beguiling trainwreck The Room, received a largely positive response from audiences and critics. (We gave it a C.) One fan of the film was Tommy Wiseau, the man behind The Room, who loved the film despite having reservations about the book. A new video essay from Thomas Flight looks to answer this question, and finds that Franco’s adaptation is to blame.
In the book, Tommy is a dark, conflicted figure who remains lovable in spite of his insecurity, selfishness, and utter lack of talent. In the movie, he’s an underdog hero, with his unsavory aspects corralled into a brief diversion late in the second act. If The Room makes anything clear, it’s that Tommy longs to be widely beloved, and, with Franco’s fun but fawning adaptation, he gets to be that.
The Disaster Artist is undoubtedly crowd-pleasing, but it’s also deeply, almost irresponsibly revisionist in the ways it depicts an audience’s initial reaction to The Room and Tommy’s willingness to accept his unconventional route to fame. As Flight’s essay explains, the movie succeeds on a micro level—the minutiae everyone brings to their performances is astounding—but fails on a macro one, telling a story that, to use one of Tommy’s favorite phrases, “betrays” its source material’s complexity.