Actors Anonymous: a Novel by James Franco
I was never a big James Franco fan (yeah, he’s cute), and I tuned out The Deuce after a few episodes, but I was really hoping The Disaster Artist would be good and I wasn’t disappointed. I was an early fan of The Room after spotting the billboard on a trip to L.A. then serendipitously seeing a small blurb on it in a Spin magazine someone had left on the plane. I immediately ordered the DVD and began having screenings of it and helped spread the love on the East Coast.
After watching The Disaster Artist, and laughing my damn ass off along with the rest of the movie theater audience (when was the last time that happened?), I excitedly texted a film friend of mine “Franco pulled it off” to which he replied “you don’t hear that said often.”
Francophile or not, The Disaster Artist is great, and I was happy to hear that Franco won a Golden Globe for it. Seeing Tommy Wiseau on stage with him brought the entire meta moment to a beautiful denouement, till the Twitter storm started. Here we go again… While the jury’s (jury, what jury?) out, I’ll move on.
Using the AA twelve steps and traditions as a framing device (not very successfully), Actors Anonymous is a Hollywood dream factory story that is part Bukowskiesque confessionals and part Less Than Zero meets Maps to the Stars. There is a harrowing chapter of what happens to a child actor (named Corey nonetheless) interspersed with other random stories about dreams of stardom and empty sexual encounters (gay and straight) culminating in pages torn from an anonymous (?) actor’s notebook and sad text messages from a girl who longs to be “the one” that I’m guessing is one of many. Leave a string of broken hearts behind, cue the pitchforks.
If my description makes little sense it may be because the book is pretty random. I read it in a few hours and found it funny, irreverent, and better written than I expected. Those reading between the lines may find “evidence” of the author’s transgressions.
Throughout the sad reverie of Actors Anonymous, there is a sincere search for the meaning of art that I found touching, even noble. Maybe he’s an asshole, I don’t know. But I admire anyone who works this hard at something he’s passionate about.
Hey kids. Life isn’t fair; and beauty, talent, and charisma have their own tyranny. For anyone requiring further lessons in “power dynamics” in Hollywood or elsewhere, I refer you to: