Who’s Tommy Wiseau? Well, that’s kinda hard to say. Either a sociopathic narcissist with a deep persecution complex and intense delusions of grandeur or a brilliant savant that sees things waaaay outside the box. You decide. In the summer of 1998, this awful struggling San Francisco actor meets fellow bad actor Greg Sestero (played by kid brother Dave Franco) and the two strike up a strong, albeit a very odd friendship. Bolstered by Tommy’s enthusiasm (and seemingly endless supply of money), the two take off for Hollywood and fame & fortune. Yeah, good luck with that!
But after a few months, things aren’t going well. Tommy has embarrassed himself at auditions and restaurants and, although Greg has a new agent and a new girlfriend (the yummy Alison Brie), nothing’s happened. In Hollywood the rule is: if you can’t get a job AS an actor, MAKE a movie instead! With no prior filmmaking or script-writing experience, Tommy dives into the deep end, buying tons of cameras, lights, sets, and hiring actors, costumers, and getting Sandy Schklair (Seth Rogan), a very confused script supervisor who takes over as his 2nd-unit director.
Tommy’s movie? The Room, a plotless, pointless, self-indulgence piece of garbage written, directed, produced, and starring Wiseau that sorta parallels his life (?). Needless to say, filming it is a complete disaster (a hilarious one, I must say) with Tommy clearly not knowing what he’s doing and Sandy trying his best to appease his ‘boss’, irregardless of the ridiculous requests he makes. Example: Tommy wants to shoot an “alley scene” inside the studio, when there’s a REAL alley just outside the building 50ft away! Even his actors can’t make sense of the script and argue over plot points and continuity.
Things worsen when Greg tells Tommy he’s moving out with his new squeeze. Tommy feels betrayed and his people skills (did he have any?) go out the window; fighting, yelling, and going off on set at everyone involved. After wrapping the film, Greg takes off, leaving his former BFF and pursuing a serious acting career. However, little does he know that The Room is going to have a world premiere at the Nuart Theater in Hollywood (courtesy of Tommy, of course) and he’s invited. Crazy as it sounds, this horrible film is huge hit with the fans!
Seeing The Room isn’t required, but it sure helps in appreciating the making of this movie. Director/actor James Franco amazing transformation wonderfully brings Wiseau to life with the man’s unusual vocal cadence, awkward laugh, unruly lion’s mane, swagger, and facial tics. Bravo! In fact, the whole cast mimics their respective real-life actor’s looks and acting (as seen in the closing credits side-by-side comparisons) that it’s scary. And Rogan is just a scream without even trying.
The screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (both wrote The Fault In Our Stars, 500 Days of Summer) have adapted Greg Sestero’s autobiographic book about his Room experience. Even though this is ‘based on a true story’, Wiseau still approved of this movie, even with all his crazy eccentricities, faults, and wild outbursts. It’s really a testament to the man who, given his bouts of self-absorption and very strange quirks, managed to pull off this hat trick, and Franco frighteningly captures the auteur perfectly. You can’t help but LOL at all the lunacy that is Wiseau and his antics; it’s infectious at times.
Oh, and then there’s the Where’s Waldo of stars that decorate this movie like sprinkles on a cupcake. From Zac Efron as a crazed thug, Sharon Stone as an agent, Megan Mullally as Sestero’s mom, and Melanie Griffith as an acting coach, they’re everywhere and fun to find. Franco is also a formidable director in his own right, playing with camera angles and showing off his own unique style, something that came in handy when meticulously reconstructing exact scenes from The Room. This is pretty much an movie by actors for actors and it sure is a lot of fun!
Ed Wood (1994)
Before there was Tommy Wiseau, there was Ed Wood, master of bad movies. One has to only watch his magnificently awful Plan 9 From Outer Space to see what horrible filmmaking is all about. Terrible acting, extremely low-budget props (paper plate flying saucers!), a laughable script, and much more. THAT was Ed Wood!
Directed with a very strange touch by Tim Burton, this semi-biography deals with Wood (Johnny Depp), a struggling film maker and closet transvestite in Hollywood, circa 1952. After meeting and befriending a washed-up Bela Lugosi (an incredible Martin Landau), he gets funding to make a low-budget film called Glen or Glenda, about a closet transvestite living with his girlfriend. He even get his real-life girlfriend, Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker), to star with him in the movie, based on himself.
But as the movie flops, Dolores introduces Ed to The Amazing Criswell (Jeffrey Jones), a TV psychic who Ed takes advice from. Next comes the hilariously bad Bride of the Monster, which only gets made because some meat packing tycoon’s son is made the leading man in the picture! More actors and weirdos start to populate Ed’s world as his movie making career starts to explode. Lugosi, acting strange and doing drugs, is Ed’s only real “star” for his audience draw, and his newest picture, Plan 9 From Outer Space, plans to be his biggest yet… until Lugosi dies.
Ed, not stopping for production, quickly substitutes Dolores’ chiropractor for Lugosi in a few scenes (his face is covered) and the audience will never know! Spoiler alert: they knew! Burton and Depp prove to be a formidable team here as this movie captures the quirky Burton-esque style of film making with Depp’s chameleon acting. But the real dessert in this magical meal is Landau as Lugosi, which won him a much deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar… and a Best Makeup Oscar for Rick Baker for his Lugosi prosthetics.
Writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wrote this brilliant script based on their own personal Ed Wood biopic they wrote while at USC film school. Pretty cool, huh? Shot in black and white by Burton, this is one of those odd-duck films that bombed at the box office, yet was hailed as a critical masterpiece by moviegoers. How exactly does that work again? People and critics love it, but it lost major $$$ for Disney? Go figure. Just like the hysterically laughable The Room, have some fun and rent/stream some of Ed Wood’s classic films to what wonderfully awful filmmaking was all about.