"Who is this auteur?" asks Danny McBride on behalf of us all.
Anyone who's experienced the cult surrounding "The Room" has asked a similar question. The film is known (even revered) for being the worst movie ever made. When I first heard about it, I didn't have the audacity to buy or rent it—and it definitely wasn't available at my local library. However, I became familiar with a few of the film's most boggling moments online. I came to love it for the unholy amalgam of non sequitur writing, stiff performance, tuxedo football, and spoon-themed artwork that it was.
For many, "The Room" represents a movie's ability to transcend its own sweeping technical failures and achieve a kind of deity among other, far better entries. It's the quintessential so-bad-it's-good film. Because the production of "The Room" was shrouded in mystery, fans have been asking questions for years about the visionary behind this cinematic disasterpiece.
Fortunately for such people, "The Disaster Artist" answers a lot of those questions. James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, the writer/ director/producer of "The Room," with Dave Franco playing Tommy's real-life friend and co-star Greg Sestero. The movie not only recounts their story of friendship and struggle during their time in LA but also puts forth an interesting thesis on the concept of an auteur. Auteurs are artists, especially in film, who are seen as uniquely talented, often tortured geniuses who control their projects meticulously. Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Tarantino are a few classic examples. "The Disaster Artist" subverts this image of a mastermind artist by making Wiseau its auteur.
When Greg says that making it in Hollywood takes a lot of luck, Tommy gets angry at him:
"It's not luck, Greg. You have to be the best."
Tommy clearly thinks that he is the best. He's ambitious, eccentric, and misunderstood—all things shared by the greats. He even claims that he wants his own planet. But a few major factors keep Tommy from joining the ranks of film auteurs. Foremost, he didn't get into directing by hard work, raw talent, or, as he said, by being the best. He just had enormous amounts of money to spend on the project. Since the source of Tommy's money is never explained, it's not too different from luck.
The film also delves into the dark side of auteurism as Tommy rampantly disregards the dignity and time of his co-workers. When Greg confronts him on this, he snaps back,
"You think Stanley Kubrick was nice to his actors? Or Alfred Hitchcock?"
He excuses himself the same way many audiences excuse the misbehaviors of other great directors. If it were a tragedy, "The Disaster Artist" might end with Tommy's hubris destroying his project—a parable on the dangers of the self-proclaimed auteur.
But "The Disaster Artist" is a comedy.
The premiere of "The Room" has the audience in stitches. Even though he's disgruntled at first, Tommy comes around and accepts the ironic enjoyment that others find in his film. He ascends from aspiring auteur to comic faux-teur. Ultimately, Tommy didn't make what he intended, but he did make something that many considered worthwhile. It is the audience, not Tommy, that empowers his art—thus, "The Disaster Artist" both celebrates and subverts the idea of an auteur.