The Disaster Artist Review

Posted August 6, 2015 by Josh McCullough in Nerdy Bits

Written by: Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

Published by: Sphere

The Room is without a doubt one of my favourite movies of all time. The bizarre “tragedy” is so full of dropped plot threads, flubbed lines and laughable dialogue that it’s impossible to watch the movie without being thoroughly entertained; it’s certainly a movie I love to break out for people who haven’t yet experienced it. The movie however seems to be so oblivious to its own terrible nature that many fans have been fascinated by how such a catastrophe could possible happen, and just what was the deal with writer, director, producer and star Tommy Wiseau? These questions, and many more, have finally been answered by one of the film’s stars Greg “ohhimmark” Sestero in The Disaster Artist, co-written by experienced writer Tom Bissell. Originally published by Simon and Schuster in 2013, the book has now been released in softback and e-book formats and it is everything I hoped for and more.

First off, the answer to the question many of you will have is yes, this book of 100% pure Tommy and it’s absolutely hilarious. Not a chapter goes by without Tommy doing or saying something out there and hilarious, whether it be demanding better seats in a Hollywood restaurant due to his status (this is before he was even famous by the way) to throwing water bottles at cast members’ heads. Every bizarre character trait present in the film is present in his real life, and I found myself quoting many classic Tommy moments to my friends which generated such laughter there were tears. Not only this, but the book shows the origin behind many infamous scenes and myths behind The Room, including most notably the framed spoons, which birthed the traditional reaction of throwing spoons at the screen. Greg’s insider knowledge of the film grants these sections so much intimacy, he was heavily involved in the film being the line producer (despite not knowing what this was at the time) and acted in it, so he’s pretty much our best source for what went on during filming. His close ties to the film allow for a previously unseen insight and a perspective of the movie that allows for tons of humor and drama; the idea of being trapped in the room, trying desperately to make it work despite it’s own self-imploding nature. Fans picking up the book in order to learn more about the film and have a good laugh should find plenty of content to keep them entertained and should have all their long held questions answered in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine. This however is only half of the narrative, and not the real reason why this book is such an amazing read, while it’s all hilarious and entertaining, there’s so much more heart and depth to this book that shows what happens when you achieve your dreams in exactly the opposite way.

Sestero and Bissell split the narrative on two fronts, half of the book contains the previously talked about filming of The Room, chronicling the struggles of the film from the day before filming right up until the premier. As stated, this is exactly what most people looking into this book will want to find, lots of insider stories about what exactly went wrong, all told in a very well written manner that carries the humor and makes the book a fun read. However, this is coupled with a parallel story of Greg’s early struggles trying to build a career in acting while forming his friendship with Tommy after meeting him in an acting class. While at first I admit to mostly enjoying this section due to reading about Greg’s discovery of Tommy like some sort of majestic creature being absolutely hilarious, there’s a lot of sympathy generated in Greg’s struggles as a young actor that got me really invested in his life story. Greg’s experiences with LA life are told with brutal honestly, every struggle along the way is present not as some “underdog beats the odds” story or even a “woe is me, damn Hollywood!” edge. Instead it’s told plainly and honestly, showing just how hard it is for a young actor to break into Hollywood, especially when everyone seems to be against you. Any young person who’s struggled to achieve what they want should find Greg’s story to be relatable and heartfelt, I personally found a lot of my own doubts and fears in his story and was really moved and invested in his struggles. I found myself wanting him to succeed and was caught up in the events that were happening, excited for every audition and potential appearance even though an imdb search could tell me similar information. Sestero and Bissell just know how to weave a compelling narrative and how to keep you reading the story, making it a joy to read while still containing a lot of personal information.

What acts as the most fascinating element of the book is the continuing thread of Tommy and Greg’s friendship, the story of which is a legitimately moving tale that speaks to feelings of isolation and disappointment in life. Tommy is presented as quite a happy-go-lucky man who inspires Greg, he feels like a warm, kind person and you really feel the emotions Greg feels for him. Things get interested however, when Sestero and Bissell weave the two stories of Greg’s life and The Room‘s production together and counterpoint different facets of Tommy’s personality. You’ll read about Greg and Tommy bonding over playing football in the park and feel like he’s a genuinely nice person, and then be shocked as he’s abusing his crew in the next chapter. His constant unpredictability make him both a hilarious and scary figure that you miss when he’s not around but also dread what he’ll do next. He’s an enigmatic figure throughout the book, with so many questions left unanswered. It works both as a source of humour because it only makes the questions people have about him even more ludicrous, but also makes him a fascinating figure you can’t help but read more about. The book makes Tommy hard to pin down, he changes from likeable, to despicable, to tragic, to sympathetic and back again so many times you’ll feel you know less about him than when you started. It is, ironically, the best way to portray Tommy, a walking contradiction whose life remains a mystery.

On top of all this, we also get the much sought after origin of Tommy Wiseau, or at least a possible version of it. Much like what we learn from his interaction with Greg, the true tale behind Tommy is one full of tragedy and isolation. The choice to reveal it towards the end of the book casts what you’ve previously read in a new light, and is revealed at exactly the right moment, when Greg and Tommy’s worlds are falling apart and production on The Room is finally wrapping up. While Tommy is still an absolute mystery, there’s so much in this origin that potentially explains why he acts the way he does and ties up many of the book’s themes into a cohesive, touching story. While I really would have liked to know more about where Greg is now in his life and what has happened with him and Tommy’s friendship since the premier of The Room, the book tells all the relevant parts of the story and contains enough that people reading it should be more than satisfied. It ends with a very sincere and touching moment, yet is still absolutely hilarious and bizarre. The book is just unlike anything else I’ve read and is the perfect retelling of the insane movie that was made despite everything working against it, mostly its own director. What really drove home the emotion were the photos published at the end of the book, seeing Tommy and Greg looking so young and happy really drove home that what the two men had was real, genuine friendship. It was a true bittersweet ending, but one that ended the book on a strong note.

Overall, The Disaster Artist is absolutely required reading for every fan of The Room, almost every weird discrepancy, bizarre origin and baffling creative decision is explained, and while some may argue that this removes the wonder or allure behind the movie, most of the explanations end up being even more hilarious and outlandish than the scenes themselves. The book manages to be both a hilarious look at a disaster of a production, while simultaneously telling a tale of loneliness, isolation, being the outsider and, above all, the hope that movies can give you to rise above all this. While The Room is unquestionably one of the worst movies ever made, The Disaster Artist has helped me to see the movie in a completely new light. I now appreciate what Tommy was trying to do and how much the project means to him, while he may still be quite a despicable person at times, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him, especially when you realise what he’s been through. The book is above all a fascinating look at the bizarre man and what he did to achieve his dreams. Why they may not have ended exactly like he wanted, that’s just what makes this an even more entertaining read. The Disaster Arist  without a doubt gets a recommendation and is the best thing to ever come out of The Room.

About the Author

Josh McCullough

A writer at WTN Josh is a huge comic fan whose tastes edge towards the strange and surreal. If there's one thing he loves more than comics then it's Doctor who. Never try and argue with him that there's a better doctor than Sylvester McCoy. Any fedoras that would make good press hats should be sent to his PO Box.