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Of course, Sestero tries to convince Wiseau in the final scene that not every filmmaker can bring an audience together as the latter man has. Of course, Wiseau has brought the audience (including the film’s cast and crew) together in howls of derisive laughter. The Disaster Artist does not hide the fact — because how on Earth could it? — that The Room is a bad, bad movie. It has brought people, among them very well-known actors and directors, a great amount of perverse joy. But the movie doesn’t avoid the pain Wiseau feels when he sees people laughing at his blinkered vision.

In this respect, perhaps, Ed Wood is a more centered individual. His own predilections, specifically his interest in dressing up in women’s clothing, confuse a number of his producers and cast/crew members. His films are largely seen as a joke — at one point, a big studio head watches Glen or Glenda? and presumes it must be a stealth comedy so he laughs his head off. Wood is too glad to make movies to worry about how they’re received, at least as depicted in the Burton film. Wiseau, whose inexplicably large bank account keeps The Room going well past its scheduled 40-day shoot, has largely parlayed the success of his 2003 film (thanks to various midnight-movie screenings around the world) to being a figure of mystery as opposed to making other films.

What The Disaster Artist suggests is that Wiseau’s enigmatic state of mind extends to his knowledge of popular culture, almost as if he’s an extraterrestrial figure who arrived on this planet with the sole purpose of making The Room. (When Sestero says that he was inspired by Home Alone as a kid, Wiseau thinks Sestero literally lived at home by himself, and seems to have no awareness of the very famous 1990 film.) In a Stanislavski acting class, his teacher (Bob Odenkirk) says that Tommy is a classic villain, comparing him to a vampire. While Tommy isn’t an actual, supernatural vampire, he does suck the oxygen from the room (and The Room), manipulating those around him so he can get what he wants: a shot at stardom. At one point, he goes as far as pushing Greg to the brink of choosing between a genuine role on a well-known TV show or sticking with The Room. Greg, as you can imagine, chooses the latter, losing himself in the process.

Tommy Wiseau disaster artist review

Why Greg chooses to stick with Tommy after so many stumbles and outright failures is almost as much of a mystery as Wiseau’s background. But it’s somewhat akin to why Ed Wood sticks with Bela Lugosi until the end of the latter man’s life. On his own, Ed Wood is a unique man, but he becomes something different and perhaps gains more of a purpose when he spends time with one of the horror greats. Greg Sestero, at least as he’s presented within The Disaster Artist, might have had a fruitful career if this or that role had turned the right way for him. (At one point, he and his girlfriend watch an episode of “Gilmore Girls,” and Greg says he was up for the role of the boyfriend played by Jared Padalecki.) However, there’s an ineffable sense that without Tommy Wiseau in his life, Greg wouldn’t be quite as complete. It’s not exactly a flattering realization — in many ways, Tommy is the most disastrous part of Greg’s life, ruining a perfectly good relationship and all but forcing him to be one of the leads in a hilariously bad film — but there’s a dependency the two have on each other. Just as Greg needs Tommy as a weird, passionate North Star in his life, so too does Tommy need a friend as inexplicably loyal as Greg.

Now, you can find the films of Ed Wood on home media and some are among those chosen for the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 for snarky consumption. Still, the midnight-movie craze, which encourages audience interaction, came after Ed Wood’s heyday. The Room, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, can be seen around the country where audiences are prepared to shout lines in unison with the actors on screen or wield plastic spoons for dramatic purposes. (If you know the movie, you know why.) Ed Wood’s career is no longer forgotten, even if it is more admirable for the passion of his films than for their quality. However, the cult world is such now that even those associated with bad films get a second wind.

Sestero’s book (co-written with Tom Bissell) is widely acclaimed, and it has served as the bedrock for one of the funnier, sharper comedies of 2017. But the trickle-down effect does exist. At the Disaster Artist screening I attended in Phoenix, the man who played Denny in The Room (Philip Haldiman, played in Franco’s movie by Josh Hutcherson) was in attendance, literally a row behind me. It was his first time seeing The Disaster Artist, which he seemed to enjoy. Haldiman, who seemed plenty happy to be among a loud group of adoring fans, was also there to promote My Big Break, a comic-book series he’s helped bring to life. It’s all about Haldiman’s experience of making The Room.

I’ll repeat: Ed Wood (and Ed Wood) arrived in Hollywood too early. He was the original disaster artist.

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