Director and star James Franco’s ode to artistic ambition and invention — two things which, it should go without saying, have no necessary connection to artistic excellence or triumph. Indeed, if you really want to examine them in their purest form, you’re probably better off focusing on a failure — and if that failure has already become famous precisely because it’s a failure, so much the better. So Franco astutely assumes the role and persona of producer-director-writer-star Tommy Wiseau, the man behind the midnight screening staple The Room. That film has been dubbed the Citizen Kane of bad movies, and Wiseau makes a fine funhouse mirror version of Orson Welles: a mischievous boy who seems weirdly old, an outsider auteur who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, an egotist who can’t see past the vision of his own genius, etc. Wiseau also makes a pretty good avatar for Franco himself: a mercurial, relentless performer whose ambition encompasses a thrilling willingness to crash and burn. And it’s that identification that makes the comedy work here, even at its broadest: Franco kids because he loves. Maybe even admires. James’s brother Dave co-stars as the slightly more knowing would-be actor who joins Wiseau on his quest to make a great movie and win the love that all artists crave. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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