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The Disaster Artist

This engrossing dramedy makes art from catastrophe

© Warner Bros. Pictures Dave Franco stars with brother James Franco, who directed The Disaster Artist, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult-classic disasterpiece The Room — “The greatest bad movie ever made.”
     Greg Sestero (Dave Franco: The Little Hours) is an actor seeking the courage to perform. A ball of nerves in his San Francisco acting classes, he finds inspiration in mysterious and fearless classmate Tommy Wiseau (James ­Franco: The Vault).
     Wiseau is an odd role model. He has plenty of money, but he won’t discuss its source or his past. His writing, acting and directing are terrible. But his blind confidence and deafness to criticism inspire Greg, who moves to LA to live with Wiseau rent-free and pursue their shared dreams of fame and fortune. 
      A year in and going nowhere, the pair convince themselves that it’s the unfair Hollywood system, not their abilities, holding them back. 
      Thus Wiseau will write, direct and star in his own film. Greg is thrilled with playing second fiddle. They spend thousands on camera equipment, audition actors and hire a professional film crew.
      Reality hits Greg hard on the first day of shooting, when Wiseau shows up unprepared and volatile. Greg’s big Hollywood break devolves into a slow-motion car crash.
      This is a true story, and Wiseau’s finished product, The Room, is infamous as the worst film ever made. You don’t need to know this to enjoy The Disaster Artist, but if you have seen it, you’ll marvel at the meticulous recreation. James Franco — who, like Wiseau, directs and stars in the film — mines great filmmaking from horrendous source material. 
      Franco doesn’t mock Wiseau. Instead, he picks at the self-conscious mystery Wiseau cultivated. The man is clearly in his mid- to late 30s, though he claims to be 19. He claims his European accent originates in New Orleans. Making fun would be easy — indeed audiences who pay to see The Room derive their joy from screaming abuse at the screen — but Franco holds back. 
      His Wiseau is a desperately fragile man who throws tantrums to fend off criticism. His need for validation and admiration is played as tragedy rather than excusing boorish behavior. In scenes ranging from hilarious to painful, Franco is brilliant. 
     As Greg, Dave Franco acquits himself well in a reactive role. 
     See it for the irony of James Franco’s delivery of the bravura performance Tommy Wiseau could never manage. 
Great Dramedy • R • 103 mins.
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     Duke Diver (Morgan Freeman) lives the high life in Palm Springs. He manages a swanky resort, is popular with the residents and has a great golf game. The arrival of Leo (Tommy Lee Jones) challenges Duke’s supremacy. 
      The former fed and Duke compete in golf and in love as they battle to be the most popular senior. When trouble from Duke’s past appears, he reluctantly teams with Leo to save himself and the community. 
      Don’t expect this to challenge either Freeman or Jones. Do expect easy, shallow, crowd-pleasing laughs. 
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 91 mins.