Monday, December 18, 2017

The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist
seen @ AMC Fresh Meadows 7, Fresh Meadows, Queens NY

I've always felt I had some measure of artistic talent. People I trust - family, friends, teachers, critics - have said as much, and it has been a driving force, maybe the driving force, in my life: the belief I could do something with it, even if I could never decide exactly what... but what if I've overestimated myself?

It's a question every creative person asks sooner or later, to themselves, if no one else: am I as good as I think I am?  It's certainly one I've asked myself over and over in my life: is my portfolio good enough to admit me to this high school (and later, this college)? Will people buy my self-published comic book instead of that other one? Will anyone read this film blog even though I don't know nearly as much about movies as others?

Coupled with that: even if I do have the goods, will people get what I'm trying to say? Creative people are, after all, incapable of looking at their work objectively; look at how George Lucas nitpicked the Star Wars movies long after they had been received and loved by the public, making changes that affected the characters. An artist who is a slave to his or her vision of what their work should be will blind themselves to ways it could be different, even better.

I've put so much of myself into this novel I'm writing: certain aspects of the main character are directly inspired by my experiences; some of my most precious beliefs, not just about baseball but life, are integral to the plot. 

I'm studying the craft of fiction writing; I'm pretty sure I understand, on a very basic level, what it takes to write a good novel and I'm prepared to get my manuscript into fighting shape before I send it out - but it could still suck: it could be misconstrued by my audience (assuming I find one); important meanings could be misinterpreted, taken for granted, even treated as a joke.

It's the risk every creative person takes, but as a great philosopher once said (though not about writing), risk is our business. We just don't know how our work will be received once it's out there, and that can be scary. 

There have been times when I've submitted a chapter to my writing group, thinking it was great, only to have it ripped to shreds. Once I find an editor to go over my work, I expect to receive a critique that will explain in detail all the places where I went wrong when I thought I did fine and I'll have to make some painful changes and I'll bitch and moan about it for awhile and then I'll suck it up and do what I have to do because I know it's what I need. (For more on this from a writing perspective, read this.)

Some people don't have that level of self-awareness. 

This brings us to Tommy Wiseau. Like Ed Wood, Ray Dennis Steckler, Harold P. Warren, Drake Lloyd, even to a degree, Lucas himself, Tommy had a vision of what a movie should be. I don't believe it was inherently flawed, but regardless, it was his, and he would let nothing keep him from making it real, which is admirable - but what if he had just let someone help him put it together?

More to the point, what if he had admitted he needed help: admitted his script was a crappy first draft that needed serious revision; admitted he was simply not the one to take on the lead role, no matter how highly he thought of his questionable (at very best) acting skills; admitted he should have found a more experienced director, one who would've known what to do with his precious vision - what if he had done that instead of doing it all himself?

What would The Room have looked like then?

We'll never know, because in time, and against all odds (and logic), it became a "hit," but for all the wrong reasons - and now, a movie has been made about this movie: The Disaster Artist.

Needless to say, I liked it better than The Room. James Franco, who also directed, captured Tommy perfectly, peculiar accent and all, but what struck me most was the emphasis on the friendship with Tommy's Room co-star Greg Sestero, played by James' brother Dave; the way their partnership evolved, was tested throughout the production, and survived.

Sestero wrote the book upon which the movie was based. While one could question his willingness to stick with Tommy, clearly he saw something in him no one else did. (Was it me, or was there even some sexual tension between them at one point in the movie?) Disaster was funny, but there were some genuine, deep moments as well; I didn't expect that.

Allegedly, no one, not even Sestero, knows anything for certain about Tommy's past. I find this difficult to believe, especially now that he's a legitimate celebrity. Are you telling me no one, no ex-girlfriends, no classmates, no family members, have come forward in the past decade to try and ride Tommy's coattails? Neither TMZ nor Perez Hilton nor People nor The National Enquirer have dug up any dirt on him - not even from a crazed superfan? That seems improbable in this information age, in which celebrity gossip fuels the film industry.

Is it possible Tommy is pulling an Andy Kaufman on us: lying about who and what he is in the name of a joke designed to gain publicity for The Room, with Sestero as his Bob Zmuda? This makes much more sense than Tommy somehow coming into the world fully formed, as it were. I predict his redneck past will be revealed one day and it will be mundane and unspectacular.

As for Tommy the filmmaker, it's my hope he has learned something from this entire experience that will enable him to make better films before his fifteen minutes of fame expires... but I have a feeling he hasn't.

1 comment:

  1. You will be seeing more of Tommy with Greg in Best F(r)iends, a story Sestero wrote loosely based on a road trip along the stretch between San Fran and L.A.. There have been hints here and there, particularly on IMDb that he is Polish in origin and close to 60 years old. But those hints are taken down (at Mr. Wiseau’s insistence, no doubt) as soon as they are put online. Tommy is, after all, a man whose life began well before the internet, and by today’s luminally paced standards, a cloudy, archaic age.


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