The contending season is still on and with the Golden Globes nominations behind us some favorites are confirmed. Written on the sky: Jessica Chastain and James Franco (who also directs) will earn Oscar nominations for their respective roles in Molly’s Game and The Disaster Artist.
Molly displays the ups and downs of high-stakes poker game entrepreneur Molly Bloom Whereas disaster is about the making of cult B (B for very bad) movie The Room (2003), both Molly’s Game and The Disaster Artist ultimately are real life stories about achieving success at any cost.
In both case, success comes from unpredictable circumstances. Odds are against both characters. Molly Bloom wanted to be an Olympic ski champion but a severe injury led her to the totally different path of organizing private poker games for stars from various fields ranging from professional sports to entertainment industry. She eventually got into trouble with the FBI a few years later. In Disaster, James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau a jack of all trades-untalented-would-be-actor who wrote, directed and produced (for 5 millions!!!) the independent feature The Room that became a midnight screening sensation as one of the worst film ever made. Disaster relates the tumultuous making of Wiseau’s film.
While there is plenty of subjects that should be explored, the Academy of Motion picture Arts and sciences is about to honor films, both based on books depicting real events, who celebrate emptiness and there is nothing to rejoice. Don’t get me wrong, The Disaster Artist is well done and it is obvious Franco did his homework. It is never as visible as when images of the original film and his homage are put side by side during the final credits. But it is in fact so good at emulating poor quality film making that it leaves you with a feeling of a counterfeiter copying, instead of a great master work, a middle school kid’s drawing. And despite many things written about Franco’s film, it never really goes beyond this. Nothing to do with the delightful appropriation Tim Burton did with Ed Wood (1994). Nothing.
After a string of successful screenplays, including The Social Network (2010) and Moneyball (2011), Aaron Sorkin gets directing assignment by adapting the dubious story of Miss Molly with Chastain as the Bloom girl. Who’s best qualified than America’s sweetheart (being Jessica Chastain must be good) to try to put a human face on such a despicable and uninteresting character that don’t deserve to be in the movies. There is a lot of work and a lot of ingredients to illustrate everything possible in Sorkin’s film. We just don’t care. It moves fast (dynamic editing job) but the emotional level stays on ground floor. The actors deliver their numerous lines (it is extremely talkative for no real purpose) with far less determination than the ambition of the woman the film depicts. We also have to be extremely naive to swallow her whole story. At a running time of two hours and a half it can get boring. And it does.
In both Molly’s Game and The Disaster Artist, living characters going against the odds are celebrated. Characters with an ultimate success story Hollywood is so fond of. But cheating, lying characters achieving nothing more than becoming stars of meaningless stature. And as the happy endings come to conclusion we are left wandering if the film business got so low on quality writings that we now get excited ‘for consideration’ with every meaningless adaptations coming our way with a carefully hyped publicity buzz.