Friday, 8 May 2009

Smiley Face (Gregg Araki, 2007)

When I approach a movie I haven't yet seen, I try to keep an open mind, or try as best I can. However with Smiley Face I was completely unable, being torn between my absolute love for Gregg Araki and the banality of the DVD's back-cover-blurb, which at best describes the film as the poor man's Harold and Kumar. Unfortunatly thats very much the case. The entire plot centres around Anna Faris being completly stoned throughout, beginning with her eating her roomates (Hyde from That 70s Show) hash cakes, being mildly threatened by Adam Brody from the OC as her dealer and eventually ending up on a ferris wheel. In fact the majority of the laughs can be gleamed from Faris' monged-out facial expressions (amusingly her best feature as an actress) while genre actors (John Cho for one) pop up to point her in the right (as in any) direction.
While this sort of fare makes for amusing results, and I have no issue with films such as this (the second Harold and Kumar is flat out hilarious), its the bizarre drop in quality from Gregg Araki that I find frustrating. Araki can very much be considered an auteur, with common themes such as alternative sexualities (Araki spear-headed the New Queer Cinema Movement of the 90s), comedic hyper-violence, alien abduction, political subtext & context, youth finding themselves and vivid, exaggerated set & costume design. Yet smiley face follows a straight girl through a convoluted retread of a plot, with a conventional colour palette and little to no political or social commentary with the exception of the negative connatations directed at Faris' character being a stoner. In fact the only evidence of Araki's direction is Adam Brody, whose bizarre outfit gives the impression that he's wandered out of Araki's previous feature Nowhere, all clashing colours and 90s headwear.
Had Smiley Face been directed by anyone else, it would still be a reasonably enjoyable yet forgetable stoner comedy with a few laughs, but the presense of such a suberbly talented director completly baffles. I can only hope Araki returns to more familiar (and ergo brilliant) territory.
Sort it out Gregg!

4 / 10

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