» LATEST FEATURES
LITERATURE» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
Ah, the stoner movie, a genre often stumbled into without a semblance of grace or class, if big-screen entries into this storied category are even attempted at all these days. It's been a long time since the stoner film's heyday, when Cheech and Chong ruled the scene with classics like Up in Smoke, Still Smoking, and Nice Dreams. It's been a decade and change since Dazed and Confused, and the only entrant into the venerable stoner genre as of late was the Dave Chappelle vehicle, Half Baked, which owed its success solely to the comedian's admirable talent and lackadaisical delivery of even the most pointed lines. Such is the saving grace of Greg Araki's new film, Smiley Face, which is carried by the comedic talent of Anna Farris. Better known for her turns in the Scary Movie franchise, as well as a memorable appearance in Lost in Translation, Farris is a joy to watch, even in the midst of an otherwise forgettable film. She plays stupid smartly, and does dazed with a razor's edge of wit. And she ain't too hard on the eyes, either. The film's director Araki, formerly the leading enfant terrible of the New Queer Cinema, recently took a more serious turn with his last film, Mysterious Skin, but as revealed in the trifling "making of" documentary featured as bonus material on this disc, he was eager to sink his teeth into something lighter for a follow-up. And indeed he did.
Here's the basic story: Stoner/aspiring actress Jane F (Farris) mistakenly eats a batch of pot cupcakes cooked up by her scary, sci-fi nerd roommate (played by Danny Masterson) under the assumption that there's nothing in them that Betty Crocker wouldn't bake. The snacks' special ingredient of course leads to her being incredibly zoinked. It is in this compromised state that Farris has to figure out a way to get through her day's activities, which include getting to an audition, paying back her dealer before her furniture is stolen, and returning a rare copy of Marx's Communist Manifesto, which she stole from someone in a weeded haze. Some game actors join in for the fun: The Office's John Krasinksi as a nerd infatuated with Jane, The OC's Adam Brody as her dreadlocked dealer, and John Cho as a sausage factory employee who gives her a helping hand. But none of the other players can match Farris' natural gift for likeable air-headedness, which she portrays without denigrating or embarrassing herself.
Now, don't get me wrong. This movie isn't all that amazing; in fact, I got pretty bored about two-thirds of the way through. But Araki's trademark low-budget, loose style works well here, and it works in a way that makes an enjoyable film out of what would be a Netflix No-Thanks™ in any other context. The beginning plays some clever filmic alphabet tricks, which may have continued throughout the rest of the movie without my noticing (contact high, perhaps?). And what other director would show The Office's beloved Jim masturbating in the shower? Oh, there's also the best Carrot Top appearance in a movie, bar none. It seems pretty evident that Dylan Haggerty's script might have fared much worse with the wrong crew of thespians and perhaps any other director. But this soon-to-be cult classic hits most of the right notes and perhaps marks a new wave in the stoner movie genre. (If there is a new wave, and everyone's too high to catch it, does it make a sound?).
As to be expected from an Araki movie, everything doesn't work out hunky-dory in the end, and there are consequences to be paid for Jane's arguably irresponsible behavior. Fortunately, she appears to be stoned enough to not really give a shit. At its bottom line Smiley Face is pretty funny, but probably more so to those who smoke herb than to those who don't (guilty as charged). So maybe take that into consideration, and consider that sober 7.2 equates to a fully-cheebed 9.016. SEE ALSO: www.firstlookstudios.com
SEE ALSO: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smiley_Face_(film)
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
» MEDIA DOWNLOADS
» GOT STICKERS?
--> Send an with $2 in PayPal funds to cover postage. Don't worry, we'll load you up with enough to cover your town. Then just be patient. They will arrive soon.