Roscoe Lee Browne
1 Hr., 24 Mins.
Smiley Face April 20, 2020
miley Face (2007) opens with a wide-ranging conversation between Jane (Anna Faris), the heroine of the movie, and Roscoe Lee Browne. Well, not exactly. At the beginning of the film, Jane, who is extremely high because she had, earlier that day, scarfed an entire plate of pot-laced cupcakes she didn’t know were pot-laced, is on a ferris wheel. Initially it seems like Browne, with his rich, stately baritone, is the
film’s narrator. But Jane responds to his musings as if she were on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” (1994-2018). “Jesus, it’s like your reading my thoughts or something,” Jane says in astonishment. “I am,” Browne replies. Jane ponders, a few moments later, how Browne has seemingly accessed her innermost thoughts so easily. “Because, you fucking pothead,” he coolly says. “You’re talking to yourself.” That realization brings Jane to her next realization — that she’s on a ferris wheel. How did she get here?
How did she get here? — the question floating above most of the action in “Smiley Face.” We don’t know very much about Jane except that she is a failing actress (she’s getting by on unemployment checks and cash from a commercial she did a while back), that she lives with very intense dude named Steve (Danny Masterson) whom we'd discover is probably an incel and/or a serial killer if we got to know him better, and that she is a committed stoner. But the movie needn’t worry about portraying Jane with that much nuance — all of its 84 minutes are taken up by her surreal, day-long journey after downing that aforementioned plate of cupcakes one morning. Jane is meant to be an “all of us” sort of figure — an embodiment of anyone who has ever endured a succession of banal-turned-fantastical experiences as a result of copious cannabis ingestion.
Among Jane’s exploits in “Smiley Face” are an audition for a bit sitcom part, an unwitting theft of a first-edition copy of “The Communist Manifesto” from an old professor of hers, a botched attempt at unionizing a sausage factory, and more. I’d like to go with a cliché and say that hilarity ensues following the introduction of each plot point, but that sells the work done here short. I don’t know if it would if Faris’ performance weren’t genuinely masterful (she’s the Carole Lombard of playing high; she has about 101 different expressions for “bemused”) and if producer-director Gregg Araki didn’t so perceptively shoot and edit things as if the camera were the eyes and senses of a smoked-out slacker. He astutely sprinkles on just-right musical flourishes to mimic a sudden jerk in Jane’s train of thought and intermittent insertions of cartoon imagery to represent her noisier-than-usual intuitions. (One time a bunch of animated arrows tell her that she should get in the back of a truck because there’s no way it isn’t going anywhere besides Venice Beach, specifically to where a hemp fest is being hosted.)
I wonder what happened to Jane the day after this episode. But the thought, which does invite some darkness, doesn’t nag, since above all else, Jane is meant to be a great, if chaotic, one-time hang for 84 minutes. I would happily go on a cannabis-inflected journey with her again — though maybe not one assisted by that many contaminated cupcakes. Maybe a few, and on a less already-eventful-enough day. A