DISASTER master Tommy Wiseau might not be a holy fool, exactly, but nor is he a straightforward simpleton.
James Franco's passion project offers a compelling behind-the-scenes account of the making of The Room, a cult classic dubbed "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" by one eminently quotable academic.
Rather than cast its central character as a figure of fun, Franco's deftly directed biopic gives Wiseau the respect he is due - neither romanticising nor demonising his unorthodox behaviour.
Even scenes such as the one in which Seth Rogen's script editor observes that the alleyway set Wiseau has just had built is an exact replica of the one immediately outside their studio are not milked for laughs.
While Franco's nuanced performance embraces Wiseau's flaws - the man is vain, needy, insecure and manipulative - the character remains oddly endearing.
The intensity of Wiseau's commitment, combined with an utter lack of self-awareness, lends him a strange kind of dignity.
According to Franco, the writer-actor-director-producer-financier of The Room initially wanted Johnny Depp to play him. But he would be hard-pressed to find a more fitting tribute than this riveting, three-dimensional portrayal.
Based on the tell-all memoir of the same name by Greg Sestero (played here by Franco's younger brother, Dave), The Disaster Artist is an unexpectedly poignant story about friendship and following one's dreams.
Of course, it helps when the dreamer has the means to bankroll their production to the tune of $US5 million plus.
But even that sort of money can't buy talent.
While The Room revolves around a love triangle involving Johnny (Wiseau), his temptress fiance Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and his best friend Mark (Sestero), it contains a significant number of subplots that don't lead anywhere.
As the puzzled actress who plays Lisa's mother (Jacki Weaver) points out, her breast cancer revelation isn't picked up again for the duration of the screenplay.
Its relevance to the overarching story remains a mystery, as does the origin of Wiseau's fortune, and the genesis of his accent (Wiseau insists he was born in New Orleans).
Directed, produced by and starring Franco, The Disaster Artist is as much a labour of love as its source material. But the movie about the making of a movie benefits from superior technical knowledge and acting talent.
The most surprising aspect about this singular movie about a singular individual is its universal entertainment value.
The Disaster Artist opens tomorrow.
The Disaster Artist
Stars: James Franco, Dave Franco and Seth Rogen.
Director: James Franco
Verdict: 4 stars