Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Smiley Face — Friend or Foe?

I saw Smiley Face (the movie) a while back and never got around to writing about it. But I’ve seen it several times since and decided it was about time I got around to doing a review.

First, let me just say that I loved this movie. And I love Anna Faris. Not in any kind of weird, stalker-ish, John Wayne Hinckley kind of way. She may not be a great actor (then again, maybe she is), but she is cute and funny, and thus far in her career has chosen roles that make the most of her comedic acting talents. The part of Jane in this film is no exception.

Smiley Face is a modern take on the classic stoner movie. Ms. Faris plays Jane, a “pothead” who accidently eats a plate full of marijuana-laced cupcakes, and then goes about her day in a less-than-optimal state of mind. She only really has to do two things that day: pay her electric bill and show up at an audition (she’s an aspiring actress). And even that turns out to be a little too much for Jane on this particular day. Driving—forget it. Not spending her roommate’s electric bill money on more pot—not likely. Impressing the casting agent with her acting skills—not exactly. Getting the money to pay both her dealer and her electric bill—ain’t gonna happen. As you might expect, hilarity ensues.

And, like all good movies, it’s the details that make this one really stand out. There are lots of little things that make it apparent that the writer, director, and actors really know their subject matter. Anyone who’s ever smoked pot (about half the adult population of the U.S.) will instantly relate. Like when her dealer comes over and she drifts off while he’s talking and forgets he’s there. And while waiting for “Mrs. C” (Marion Ross, whom I will always think of as the mom on Happy Days), a photo of corn sets her off on this hilarious stream of consciousness rambling. Or when she thinks she is giving this eloquent, moving speech, but in reality never completes a sentence. Or the boredom, the paranoia, the daydreams, the craving for Doritos and orange juice. These are some people that know what it’s like to be stoned.

Also in the cast are Danny Masterson (Hyde from That 70s Show) as her nerdy/scary roommate, John Krasinski (Jim from The Office) as the ultra-nerd who has a crush on Jane, and John Cho (Harold from Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle) as the driver of a truck she stows away in. All in all, a great cast, great writing, great directing, and great comedic acting. As a screwball/adventure comedy, Smiley Face is top notch.

So what could possibly be wrong with such a fun movie? Well, I hear tell that some in the anti-prohibition community feel that this film, and films like it, portray pot smokers in a negative light. And I guess that’s true. And “they” feel that such portrayals hurt their cause. Maybe, maybe not. It’s true that pretty much all the characters in this film are blatant stereotypes—the stoner, the nerd, the various authority figures. So I can certainly understand how some people might not like having these stereotypes perpetuated. It might make some people think that everyone that smokes pot is like Jane. And they’re probably right–that some people might think that. There are certainly some people out there who really believe all pot smokers are like Jane (or Cheech and Chong). Some of those people are running this country.

But not enjoying this delightful comedy for those reasons is like being a vegetarian because you don’t want animals to be killed. I’d guess that virtually all of those people that think every pot smoker is a dazed and confused danger to themselves and society would think so regardless. So screw them. Let those of us who enjoy this sort of thing do so, and let those others wallow in their own delusions.

And just for the record, every pot smoker is not like Jane. Or Cheech and Chong. Or James Franco’s character in Pineapple Express. Any more than every one who consumes alcoholic beverages is like Otis Campbell (the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show) or Jim Lahey (the drunk trailer park supervisor on Trailer Park Boys). It’s comedy, people. That’s where you take some little thing, some little trait or quirk or behavior, and you exaggerate it. The characters in comedies often say and do things that no human being in real life would ever conceivably even think of saying or doing. That’s what makes it funny. You can’t take them seriously, as if that needs to be said. So enjoy Smiley Face and films like it for what they are—mindless entertainment. Not social or political statements. If it makes you laugh, that’s a good thing. And this film made me laugh, a lot.

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