Book Reviews, Reviews

The Disaster Artist Review

Apologies for the long hiatus from any content at all, let alone book related content! 

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First of all, let me start by saying that if you haven’t seen Tommy Wiseau’s cult masterpiece The Room then you haven’t lived. It is one of the most beautiful messes ever to exist and everyone should see it at least once before they die.

Some context: long ago, in distant 2001, Thomas Wiseau decided to make a film. For those who haven’t seen it, The Room is an attempt at a serious romantic drama written, directed and starred in by Wiseau, who unfortunately has very little talent at any of those three things. The film is only still around because it reached cult status for its sheer awfulness. People attend screenings of The Room like they do Rocky Horror Picture Show, heckling the screen, throwing spoons and joining in with every iconic line (“You’re tearing me apart Lisa!”). It transcends all possible description with mere words, so I can only advise that you seek it out and watch it as soon as possible. You can thank me later. If you can’t watch it right now, all you really need to know can be summed up by this quote from Professor Ross Morin:

It is one of the most important films of the past decade…the Citizen Kane of bad movies.

What The Disaster Artist reveals is that the making of the film was just as painfully entertaining as the film itself. Written by Greg Sestero, Wiseau’s (possibly only) friend who was dragged into starring in the film, this book gives an enthralling insight into every aspect of the film and the genius(?) behind it.

Wiseau is a fascinating and often quite sinister character, both as a man and a filmmaker, and Sestero is perfectly situated to give us a reasonably in-depth look into both. The book alternates between ‘past’ (how Sestero met Wiseau, their friendship and how The Room was conceived) and ‘present’ (describing the making of the film), ending with the glorious premiere. It’s hard to say which chapters I enjoyed more; the filming chapters were great fun and full of hilarious anecdotes about Wiseau’s odd directing choices and his inability to read the lines he wrote himself, and if you’ve seen the film then you’ll find lots of explanation for some of the more…unusual…aspects of the film, such as why there are pictures of spoons everywhere or why there’s a scene where the characters play football in tuxedos for no discernable reason.

But Sestero goes beyond just writing a funny book about a terrible film in the ‘past’ chapters and actually gives some thoughtful insight into Wiseau’s past and how it affects his behaviour and motivations. In some ways this is even more interesting than the amusing anecdotes from the film set, and goes a long way to explain how The Room ended up the way it did. Somehow the film is all the more interesting when you have a glimpse into the psyche of the man who made it. Of course, there’s no way to confirm Sestero’s stories about Wiseau’s past – Wiseau is notorious for lying and avoiding questions about his history – but he makes some educated guesses that turn his friend into more than just a strange comedic caricature.

This is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who’s seen The Room, or even anyone with an interest in film-making because it gives such a unique and in-depth perspective of the process. It’s a light and engaging read that offers a little more than most books of its kind. I’ll be interested to see how the film adaptation that’s coming out later this year treats it (yes, they’re making a film about a book about making a film). It’s bound to be entertaining with a great cast, but I’ll like it all the more if it keeps some of the heart that makes this book so readable.

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Other Stuff, Personal

Lessons from 2016

Ignoring the complete shitshow that 2016 has been (because what else can you call the year when ‘President Trump’ became not just an idea but reality), it’s been quite a year for me. Yes, I am going to use this post to be self-centered and pretentiously introspective.

It’s been my first year living away from my parents, resulting in a fairly…bumpy ride for my mental health, to put it somewhat lightly, although for the first time it feels like I’m making real progress in getting the treatment I need. I met someone who is so kind and patient I struggle to believe that he’s real sometimes. I’ve made new friends in a new city and had some great times visiting old ones. I’ve made some fairly major mistakes, but I’ve also learned how to pick up the pieces and keep myself going.

I don’t know if I could exactly claim that it’s been a good year, but I can definitely say that I’m proud of myself, and that’s enough for me.

So now that I’ve got all thoughtful and broody on you, I’m going to pretend that I’m in any way qualified to give life advice from the things that I’ve learned over the past year.

  1. Adults really don’t know what they’re doing either. Entering the inner circles of the adult working world is great, because you learn that everyone is making it up as they go along, just like you. You just get better at hiding the fear in your eyes.
  2. Independence is terrifying but ultimately wonderful. Yeah, it’s really weird the first time you have to pay bills or get a P60, but then you realise that you have the ability to buy a huge chocolate cake and eat the entire thing and no-one can stop you, and it’s all uphill from there.
  3. The world sucks a lot of the time, and it’s okay to step away from that every so often.  It’s important to remember that you can’t focus intensely on everything all the time; it’s exhausting and ultimately achieves nothing. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty about taking time for yourself sometimes.  Just appreciate that you are privileged enough to be able to step back from these situations and have some tea.
  4. You’re going to hate your job sometimes. Yes, even if it’s the ‘dream job’, there are going to be days when the last thing you want is to drag yourself to your desk and do whatever it is you’re paid to do. You’re an adult now, you just have to do it anyway. That’s what coffee’s for.
  5. If you want something, you’ve got to ask for it. People aren’t mind readers (fortunately). If you want something, it’s no good sitting quietly and just hoping it’ll happen without your input. I really struggle with this; my anxiety and my general upbringing have taught me to try and get in the way as little as possible, so asking for things is a big no. This is definitely something I’m still going to be working on in 2017.
  6. Tinder does work sometimes. Speaking from experience here. I know it can be disheartening, wading through the weirdos, cultists and dick picks, but one day you might just find a guy who asks you out using movie quotes and then takes you on a personalised tour of the city because you mentioned you were new here and shares his umbrella with you when it starts to rain. Just keep swiping and you might find him. Maybe. No guarantees though.
  7. Your significant other is human, just like you. Your partner is going to mess up sometimes, and you can’t resent them for that because you’re going to mess up just as much, if not more. Everyone has their bad days, but it’s wanting to be with someone even during those times that makes a relationship work.
  8. Tea is actually magic. I drank a lot of tea through my teens (I’m from Yorkshire, it comes with the territory), but I never truly appreciated the medicinal properties of a steaming mug of English Breakfast after the most stressful day at work, or a cup of chamomile while you read in bed.
  9.  It’s okay to not be okay. It’s taken me a long time to figure this one out. Still working on it.
  10. People are good. I’ve always taken the attitude that people as a group are awful, but most individuals have at least the potential for goodness. This year has kind of proved that for me. As scary as things may seem right now, surrounding yourself with compassionate, generous people makes life seem just a little brighter.

It’s not much, but it’s kept me going this year. I hope that 2017 is a wonderful year for everyone, and that things won’t seem quite so hopeless after a cup of tea.