Over the next month, The Atlantic’s “And, Scene” series will delve into some of the most interesting films of the year by examining a single, noteworthy moment and unpacking what it says about 2017. Next up is James Franco’s The Disaster Artist. (Read our previous entries here.)
There’s nothing Hollywood loves more than a tale of suffering in the name of creation. Making great art can be a magical and infuriating endeavor, one that often requires sacrifice. Works that go behind the scenes of the cinematic process—like Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night and Tim Burton’s Ed Wood—tend to home in on the absurdity of such efforts, portraying directors at the center of manic three-ring circuses that couldn’t possibly result in a meaningful film. The set of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 movie The Room, dramatized this year in James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, was such a circus. But it was one that, against the odds, actually led to the creation of something special.
My favorite moment in The Room, to date Wiseau’s only feature film, is beloved by many: a throwaway line delivered by Claudette (played by Carolyn Minnott), the mother of the story’s female lead Lisa (Juliette Danielle). After she complains about her greedy brother trying to get her to sell her house, Claudette bemoans the general state of her life. “Everything goes wrong at once. Nobody wants to help me, and I’m dying,” she says. “You’re not dying, mom,” Lisa tells her. “I got the results of the test back,” Claudette replies with a shrug. “I definitely have breast cancer.”