Welcome to Evan and Seth’s Jewish Not-Jewish Movie Blog!  About once a month, Evan (Senior Jewish Educator, Hillel York)  and Seth (Chief Education & Campus Officer, Hillel Ontario) are going to take a look at a movie that has no ostensible or identifiable Jewish content and offer their commentary, as well as some Jewish texts that address one (or more!) of the movie’s themes.  

This month’s movie is The Disaster Artist (2017), a movie about the making of a movie. Not just any movie, however. It shows the making of The Room, a film that Vox magazine describes as “the worst movie ever … [that] became a Hollywood legend.” The Disaster Artist, based on the 2013 novel of the same name, documents this journey. The film describes how two struggling actors, Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, eventually took fate into their own hands by starring in a film that Tommy wrote, directed, produced and funded (from an inexhaustible source of funds of a mysterious origin). 

More than documenting the making of the movie, however, The Disaster Artist also focuses on the relationship that developed between the two protagonists. The film shows the origins of their asymmetrical friendship and documents their journey to the cinematic promised land of Canaan Los Angeles in relentless pursuit of their acting dreams, often in a way that seems utterly lacking in self-awareness and untethered to reality. 

Why We Chose This Film and What’s Jewy about It 

  1. It’s available on Netflix, so it’s easier for you all to watch.
  2. Both of us have seen the underlying film The Room and thought it was hilarious (whether intentionally or not).

Back in the day (like, four thousand-ish years ago), Jews collectively earned the description “a stiff-necked people.”  Originally, this wasn’t intended as a compliment, and more recent attempts to characterize Jews as persistent, determined, or persevering can lapse into the creepily philo-Semitic or even the downright antisemitic.

All that said, persistence in dogged and tenacious pursuit of one’s values, ideals, or aspirations can be positive.  Whether it’s finding communal strength in response to oppression, remaining true to an aspect of your identity in response to adversity, or individually seeking success as an actor, there can be virtues in self-loyalty.

Pre-Screening Questions

Before you push play, here are some things to think about:

  1. When is the pursuit of your dreams worthwhile, and when does it fall into foolishness?
  2. Is a good friend one who tiptoes around sensitive subjects, or will explicitly tell you if something is beyond your capacity?
  3. Is there a place or community, Jewish or otherwise, that feels most conducive to advancing your dreams or supports you in being your truest self?  Did you ever feel like that community or place let you down?

Ready to watch the movie? Great! Go watch the movie! Now!

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