Smiley Face Gregg Araki

Smiley Face Gregg Araki

Cinema needs another stoner comedy like it needs another remake. Dude, Where’s My Car? and Harold and Kumar pretty much wrote the book on the most fun you can have baked out of your skull — but wait, there is another.

After establishing himself with disturbingly original flicks like Totally Fucked Up and The Doom Generation, the last few years have seen sensationalist filmmaker Gregg Araki reinvent himself as somewhat of a respected auteur thanks to 2005’s poignant adaptation of Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin. It appears that Araki is looking to continue growing with Smiley Face, his first foray into straight comedy.

Anna Faris (the Scary Movie series) plays Jane, a pothead with a pretty easy day ahead of her: go to her audition and pay the electrical bill. Feeding her habit at nine in the morning, Jane needs sustenance to get motivated, and scarfs down her roommate’s cupcakes, which just so happen to be "magic cupcakes.” From here on in, Jane’s day gets more complicated than it should in a side-splittingly destructive chain of events that get her deeper and deeper into trouble.

Dylan Haggerty’s script dodges the typical half-baked jokes for a full on, bona fide experience of being stoned, exemplified best by a harebrained plan to hang up a portrait of President James A. Garfield on the wall. Supported by a cast that includes Adam Brody, John Cho (Harold and Kumar), John Krasinki and Marion Ross, Faris, who’s proven herself a dependable comic actress, is cinematic gold as the navigator, going through the motions — absurdity, hunger, paranoia and "bright” ideas — that lead her from a Ferris wheel chatting to Roscoe Lee Browne to absconding a copy of Marx’s communist manifesto.

Much like the trajectory of his career, Araki keeps his film moving in a completely unpredictable direction while adding familiar stylistic quirks, like a hip soundtrack and some light-heartedly colourful visuals. Smiley Face won’t earn him the accolades an achievement like Mysterious Skin did, but it should rack up a strong cult, possibly even mainstream, following, and hopefully shine some more light on Faris, one of the biz’s most reliable comedians. (First Look)