Bookshelf: What we’re reading in July | Bakersfield Life

“The Room,” a 2003 cult film that can really only be described as the 99-minute magnum opus of the world’s least competent auteur, is an acquired taste.

“The Disaster Artist,” a 2017 indie film that tells the story of that auteur, the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, and his relationship with co-star and friend Greg Sestero, is arguably even more niche. Even with an odd prologue in which assorted Hollywood luminaries wax poetic about the true brilliance of “The Room,” it’s hard to convince mainstream audiences to really care about a film that wants to spend as much of its time reenacting scenes from another film as it does establishing its central relationship.

I maintain, however, that “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” Sestero’s nonfiction book (written with Tom Bissell) on which the movie was based, has the most mass appeal of the three.

Unsurprisingly given its first-person perspective, it supplies a more nuanced look at the quixotic showbiz dreams and the common love for James Dean that brought Sestero and Wiseau together in San Francisco and drew them to LA, a classic Hollywood tale through and through.

But it’s also not afraid to talk about what pulled them apart. The movie, aided by a Bryan Cranston cameo, fabricates a potential “Malcolm in the Middle” role for Sestero to drive a wedge between him and Wiseau as they try to film the movie. In reality, this elides a lot of what Sestero depicts as abusive behavior from Wiseau, who says sought not just to cut him off from acting success but also other social connections. Along the same lines, the movie’s focus on reenacting the scenes in front of the camera obscures a lot of the behind-the-scenes drama caused by Wiseau’s on-set antics — though it does give viewers a little taste of this discord.

It all gives the sense that the film glossed over some of Wiseau’s less sympathetic character traits to make the story fit a more typical buddy-comedy format and potentially appeal more to fans of “The Room” with affection for the man.

But the real story is so much more compelling and accentuates the eccentricities unique to Wiseau that made him and his movie so compelling in the first place.

That’s why I think the book could serve as an entry point even for those who aren’t familiar with “The Room” mythos. They might even appreciate it more.

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.

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