In a perfect world, or maybe one that was just, like, super, super, super-stoned on some dope-ass weed . .. like some revolutionary ganja and shit, man. . . . But that’d be the same thing, though, wouldn’t it? Perfect. Stoned. Hmm . . . awesome. Um, one sec. I’ll be right back.
What’s this all about again? Smiley Face, right. Anna Faris, man. That chick from
Scary Movie, you know. She’s a fucking genius. In a perfect world, Smiley Face would make her bigger than that girl from Juno, or Meryl Streep, or something.
Truth is, in a perfect world pot wouldn’t turn my mouth into a sandbox and my nervous system into one giant, uptight twitch. Can’t stand the stuff, frankly, so I’m not exactly an ideal candidate to evaluate the blunted verisimilitude of Smiley Face, stoner farce par excellence. On the plus side, 100 percent sober when I watched it, I can say with some authority that Dylan Haggerty has written an eleventh-hour candidate for the funniest movie of 2007, that Gregg Araki has directed his finest film since 1997’s Nowhere, and that Faris, flawless, rocks their inspired idiot odyssey in a virtuoso comedic turn.
Smiley Face tells the story of how Jane F (Faris) got from point A (the letter A on her laptop, upon which, in a Mary Jane stupor, she recently purchased the most comfortable bed ever for $995.99, thereby emptying out a checking account that would have come in handy right about then when, after having devoured a plate of cupcakes improbably laced with massive quantities of dope, baked by her nerdy, “skull-fucking” roommate and explicitly labeled DO NOT EAT, she could have used the money to whip together a new batch and pay off her dealer, who just stopped by to demand the balance, or else—”or else” being the confiscation of the most comfortable bed ever, and that would be such a total bummer!) to point Z (stuck on a Ferris wheel high above Venice beach, hallucinating a voiceover spoken by Roscoe Lee Browne).
Confused? Just ride, man: Points B–Y will take Jane, aspiring actress, from an audition that ends with her offering to sell the casting agent a baggie to having a dentist-office freakout in the company of an über-dork who might be able to lend her the cash to pay the dealer and give her a ride to the 33rd Annual Venice Hemp Festival. Visiting the house of a former professor in Marxist studies, she’ll inadvertently get her hands on an original copy of The Communist Manifesto (and promptly daydream the glorious results of an eBay auction) and later head to a pork-processing plant in the middle of nowhere, and so on and so forth with maximum silliness, deft narrative drive, and dialogue of sustained hilarity.
Dealer, explaining his métier in Reagonomic terms: “It’s all about capitalism, shit like that, you know?”
Jane, exhaling a gigantic toke: “Just because weed isn’t taxed doesn’t mean it exists in some sort of, you know, laissez-faire paradigm. Or whatever.”
Araki, the man who put the “ew” in New Queer Cinema (The Living End, The Doom Generation), keeps his screwball rolling with a freewheeling touch, bouncing with ease from goofball monologue to manic slapstick to dusted interludes of unconsciousness and hallucination. Haggerty writes the smartest kind of dumb comedy; his fuzzy nuggets of Marxist mumbo jumbo neatly acknowledge the countercultural pretensions and random acts of thinking that accompany a monumental pot binge.
There ends up being a moral to the Smiley Face story. As Jane fumbles toward her Ferris-wheel epiphany, the play of motifs (Marx, marijuana, most comfortable bed ever) mesh with surprising and delightful intricacy, snaring our heroine in a net of accountability—saving her, really, from the farcical solipsism of the professional pothead. The larger point, of course, is to laugh your lazy, extremely wasted ass so totally off that it floats up, up, out of the theater and across the hall of the IFC Center, where Smiley Face opens and where I do NOT (ahem) by any means (heh-heh) recommend you light up in the bathroom—nice bathrooms, by the way—la, la, la, float my funny ass, float! into the evening show of the uncut Fanny and Alexander (opens January 2—fuckin’ hilarious!!!), giggling so hard your ass actually laughs its own ass off, and comes back to join you at Smiley Face.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 18, 2007