James Franco does a superb imitation of Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist”, but the movie doesn’t dig deep enough into who the failed filmmaker was and why his 2003 dud “The Room” was such a debacle. Sure, it mines lots of laughs out of how god-awful the cult classic is, but the script Franco directs fails to expose enough of what drove Wiseau. Who was he? Where did he come from? And what made him think he had any talent whatsoever? These questions remain unanswered as Franco’s film spends more time being sweet and sentimental than savaging. It should have been another “Sunset Boulevard” but it fails to illuminate the dark delusions of the Hollywood dream factory.
Martin McDonagh may be a filmmaker from England, but he certainly understands America. His take on small town life in the USA is insightful and uncanny. In “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” it feels like we’ve been plopped down right in the middle of the town locals and their problems. McDonagh expertly develops character that drives story, but the narrative doesn’t always go where you’d expect it. He twists and turns his plot, as well as the behavior of his players. His darkly comic drama keeps us guessing throughout and makes for one of the more absorbing films of 2017. All that, and he lures award-worthy performances out of Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson to boot.