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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

So Bad, It's Good: 'The Disaster Artist,' 'The Room' And Pushing The Mainstream

Arthur Mola/Invision/AP
Tommy Wiseau, left, with James Franco, the director and star of the film "The Disaster Artist," based on the production of Wiseau's 2003 film, "The Room." Commentator Miles Anton says the two films serve as a reminder of what the medium is truly about.

Fifteen years ago, a film critically considered a colossal disaster was written, directed and produced by Tommy Wiseau.

The Room lost an estimated $6 million at the box office and was rated one of the worst movies of all time by websites like IMDB, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes.

One critic wrote that the movie “...oozes sincerity, which is then slathered in a thick coating of oblivious narcissism.”

The new film, The Disaster Artist re-tells the story of The Room’s original production.

It’s part dark comedy and part dramatic epic and it just won actor-directorJames Franco a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical.

The Room’s relatively low production values and repetitive nature made it seem like a parody of itself, with a poorly written script and a confusing plot. But The Disaster Artist succeeds in making sense of what Tommy Wiseau tried to do.

The Room is a movie that’s open to wildly different personal interpretations.

For some it’s a cult classic they embrace because of its awfulness.

For others it’s an intentional comedy that mocks the convoluted world of indie film.

But to Wiseau himself, it was an effort to create his own Shakespearean epic, to express personal losses and emotions that could’ve gone mainstream if he’d had enough resources.

To me, The Room is still relevant and inspired one of the best movies of the year precisely because it attracts mainstream criticism for not being mainstream enough. And The Disaster Artist succeeds because its cast of comedians keeps the terrible story light enough to be enjoyable.

Many people today want movies that both avoid mainstream expectations and aren’t afraid to make fun of themselves. And if the lines between comedy and drama, indie and mainstream have indeed become blurred, today’s movies must be able to bring comedy and drama together – like the collaboration between misunderstood filmmaker Tommy Wiseau and comedy stars like James and Dave Franco, Seth Rogen and Alison Brie for what may be one of the best movies of 2017.

Other recent releases, like The Big Sick, Baby Driver, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out also blend genres and will likely be strong contenders for the Academy Awards.

The Room serves as a reminder of what film has always been about: being innovative, pushing the mainstream limits and bringing together a cinematic ensemble, no matter how unconventional it may be.

Miles Anton of Brattleboro is a high school student, writer and filmmaker.
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