The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell (Simon and Schuster)

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Reading this downright thrilling book is a lot like watching Tim Burton’s Ed Wood: it’s sometimes infuriating, often excruciating, usually very funny, and occasionally horribly uncomfortable, but it’s also impossible to look away from. The Room, a 2003 film written, directed, and starring the inscrutable Tommy Wiseau, was massively and enthusiastically lambasted by critics, proclaimed by some as the worst movie ever made (an insult, some movie fans might say, to Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space). Sestero, who starred in The Room, teams up with magazine journalist Bissell (who previously wrote about the movie in Harper’s) to walk us through the unpredictable, confusing, and—it must be admitted—wildly incompetent production of Wiseau’s vanity project. This is a making-of book like no other, the day-to-day story about the filming of a movie that everyone involved with it, except its creator, knew was awful. But it’s also the story of a very interesting friendship between Sestero and Wiseau (who knew each other for several years before The Room), and the story of an enigmatic and incredibly self-absorbed man who, in making his film, seemed to be trying to exorcise a troubled past and build an entirely new version of himself. Wiseau, for all his eccentricities, comes off as a sympathetic fellow, someone we, like Sestero, can’t help rooting for. The Room has become a cult fave, and this book goes a long way toward explaining how and why.

This review originally appeared in Booklist, September 2013.

 

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