Smiley Face

Sundance Film Festival 2007 (Midnight Section)Gregg Araki's Smiley Face is a minor work, a freewheeling stoner comedy with the novelty of having a woman as its protag. Anna Faris plays Jane, a former college student (majoring in economics) and now an unsuccessful slacker actress.

What begins as a bad day gets progressively more outrageous and comically surreal, a premise that led some critics to compare this Los Angeles-set movie with Scorsese's far superior noirish comedy “After Hours” (1985), which takes place in New York's SoHo.

Jane's misadventures begin when she treats herself to some cupcakes left untouched by her psycho roommate Steve (Danny Masterson), a sci-fi geek. The cookies are not as “innocent” as they appear, and soon they exert unanticipated consequences.

Getting a ride from her roommate's friend (John Krasinski), who's smitten with her, Jane embarks on a long, strange trip. Among Janes's chores of the day are trying to cross town so she can repay an unforgiving drug dealer (Adam Brody), attend an audition (and expect to be rejected), and, of course, replace the precious cupcakes.

Jane's effort to get through her day proves an arduous task of epic, often surreal proportions. When the original text of the Communist Manifesto falls into her hands, things really get out of control. This is an Araki feature, and so we expect Jane to run into an assortment of eccentric characters, such as menacing cops, factory workers, and buzz-killers.

Written by Dylan Haggerty, “Smiley Face” is a likable but slender pothead comedy, a reminder of better and funnier films of the sub-genre such as “Dude, Where's My Car” Fortunately, the picture is short (about 82 minutes), and Araki's inspired is also gimmicky direction makes it tolerable, and in moments even enjoyable experience.

Faris is a talent to watch, having impressed in the “Scary Movie” series and in small parts in other high-profile pictures (“Brokeback Mountain”). A likable comedienne, Faris gives a rather funny performance; after all, how many thesps can play convincingly a scene calling for getting stoned very early in the morning.

Credits

Running time: 82 MIN.

A First Look Pictures production in association with Anonymous Content and Desperate Pictures.
Produced by Henry Winterstern, Kevin Turen, Steve Golin, Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Gregg Araki.
Executive producers, Jorg Westerkamp, Thomas Becker, Stuart Burkin, H. Jason Beck.
Co-producer, Hans C. Ritter.
Directed by Gregg Araki.
Screenplay, Dylan Haggerty.
Camera: Shawn Kim.
Editor, Araki.
Music, David Kitay.
Production designer: John Larena.
Art director: Helen Harwell.
Set decorator: Peggy Paola.
Costume designer, Monika Mikkelsen.