Thursday 27 January 2011

Obscurity Files #38 - Smiley Face

With Anna Faris about to be seen guarding Picnic baskets in Yogi Bear, lets take a look at her with a major case of the munchies. Today, it's time to check out Smiley Face.
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When stoner actress Jane (Anna Faris) accidentally eats a batch of doped up cupcakes belonging to her roommate, she has the complete intention of replacing them; but first she's got to buy some more weed and go to the audition her manager has arranged for her. Oh, and she needs to pay off her dealer or as payment he's going to take away her big comfy bed.

One of Anna Faris' best traits as an actress is her willingness to make herself look ridiculous at any given moment, something she does regularly throughout this film. She does a very convincing stoned face, and is often looking bleary eyed into the middle distance with her jaw agape. Her character is very sweet and charmingly clueless though.

Keen to complete her list of things to do, Jane musters up enough brain power to look through her address book, calling upon Brevin (John Krasinski, better known as Jim Halpert from The Office) to drive her to the local hemp festival to square her debt with her dealer. Before she can get there though, she has a run in with the cops, invades a strangers house and finds herself in possession of a copy of The Communist Manifesto.

Directed by Gregg Araki, Smiley Face was his follow up to the dark Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring drama, Mysterious Skin. It's fair to say that Smiley Face was a bit of a change of pace after that film (the darkest aspect of this film is Jane's paranoid fear that her roommate may be a "skullfucker"), and overall is a very lighthearted film. Araki's next film is the upcoming Kaboom, which appears to have landed somewhere between the existential drama of Mysterious Skin and the playful wackiness of Smiley Face.

It's one of the all time classic "day off" pictures that puts Ferris Bueller's productivity to shame. Jane's whole day is a comedy of errors that (although carefully planned out in her itemised list), goes wrong as early as it can. The film often flips between moments of comedy to crazed paranoia, essentially throwing her into a variety of awkward social situations with normal people and seeing how she tries to hide her stoned condition.

This really is a modern stoner classic, but you don't need to by high to enjoy it... although it may help a little. It's all down to Faris, who wanders through the film with a delightfully gormless expression. Well aware of the audience it was aiming for, Smiley Face was released in the States on April 20th, better known as the counter culture holiday 4/20, or 'Weed Day'.

Although it has become a bonafide cult classic and counter culture 'must watch', it's not exactly flattering in its depiction of drug use. Of course it's all played for laughs, but Jane's inability to function properly in the real world is all down to her pot usage. Come the climax she doesn't really learn any life lessons, other than to make sure she keeps up with her regular repayments to her dealer.

A comic success thanks to the performance of its lead actress, Smiley Face is a complete stoner's delight, and has the ability to make you as happy as finding a shiny object down the back of your sofa.

Save from obscurity? YES