Tuesday, April 26, 2016

(audio)book review: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made 

Written and read by: Greg Sestero

Published: 2013

Synopsis: The Disaster Artist is Greg Sestero's laugh-out-loud funny account of how Tommy Wiseau defied every law of artistry, business, and friendship to make "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" (Entertainment Weekly), which is now an international phenomenon, with Wiseau himself beloved as an oddball celebrity. Written with award-winning journalist Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist is an inspiring tour de force, an open-hearted portrait of an enigmatic man who will improbably capture your heart. (Via Goodreads)


“The only casting directors who’d be willing to call Tommy in on the basis of this headshot were the ones curious about what it was like to be murdered.”

Many moons ago, Tom sent me a link to a youtube video which neatly smooshed together some of a film's "best moments". The movie was The Room and the descriptor "best" is ... controversial at best. It is not a good movie, but it is a movie so bad that it's hilarious. 

Soon after that The Room was screened at a little cinema here in Brisbane and we were both hooked. I 100% do not recommend watching this film by yourself or even with a couple of friends. It's a pile of absolute garbage, but as a cinema experience it's amazing fun. There are all sorts of rituals and games that the audience perform through the screening, which aside from being fun to participate in have the added bonus of distracting from the nonsense onscreen.

When I heard that Greg Sestero (the cheating best friend Mark in the trailer) had written a book about his experience making the film I knew I had to read it. It took me several years but here I am, I have now officially read the book and know the story behind "the greatest bad movie ever made". Or rather, I have listened to the book. If you only take away two things from this review, be sure that they are to only watch The Room in a cinema with a huge group of people (and probably a significant amount of alcohol - I recommend scotchka) and listen to this book so that you can experience the beauty that is Sestero's Tommy Wiseau impression.

I don't think this book will offer much to people unfamiliar with the phenomenon that is The Room. The hook of the book is a privileged look inside what must have been an unbearable filming process and the man responsible for it. Tommy Wiseau is notoriously cagey about his past and it fuels the mythos that has developed around him and his film. This book further pushes this mythos, detailing all of the secrecy Wiseau maintained during their friendship while also peeling back a few of the layers. But even when something is revealed it's so crazy a story that it's hard to know if there is any truth there at all.

What is to be known for sure is that the movie must have been horrible to work on. Sestero detailed the lengthy shooting of The Room in painful detail ... painful because it resulted in 2 people taking trips to the hospital and multiple mutinies where large numbers of the crew walked off the set at once. The book alternates between a chapter on the production of The Room and the early days of the friendship that began in a San Franciscan acting class. The early portions of their relationship serve to make a clear foundation for how the production could be such a mess, but it also provides a really intimate look into the permanent state of self-doubt and fear that comes with being a young actor. I may have read the book for the eccentric Tommy Wiseau, but it really lead to a real appreciation for Greg Sestero.

So if you've seen the film and was attracted to that mess like a moth to the flame then definitely give the book a read/listen. Or if you've seen the film and hated it then maaaybe borrow it from the library and see if you can enjoy the schadenfreude. And if you haven't seen the film, then why are you reading this review? Go find a public screening, laugh at the absurdity and cry at the fact that they're now all probably richer off this terrible movie than any of us could wish to be. Then give the book a read.


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