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Smiley Face Reviews

Gregg Araki's 85-minute lark takes off from an intriguing image: A blond, twenty-ish woman in a red zip-up sweatshirt atop the Venice Beach Ferris wheel, stoned out of her mind, fantasizing about orange juice and Tostitos and clutching an extremely rare first-edition copy of The Communist Manifesto. Who she is and how she wound up in such a peculiar situation is Araki's subject, and how you feel about the movie depends entirely on your feelings about star Anna Faris, who's onscreen for every minute of it. Unemployed actress Jane F. (Faris) has a busy day ahead of her, including an 11AM audition, so she does what pretty much any pothead would shortly after waking: She fires up her bong and gets fairly baked. And then she accidentally gets really high: Hit with the hungries, Jane remembers the cupcakes her scary, D&D playing roommate Steve (Danny Masterson) baked for the upcoming Sci-Fi Extravaganza he's organizing; the ones he left in the refrigerator with a "Do not eat" sign. Unaware that they're actually pot cupcakes, Jane scarfs down the entire plate. When she finally comes to, Jane hazily grasps her predicament: She'll not only have to replace Steve's snacks, she'll have to buy more pot to bake into them. So Jane sort of formulates a plan: 1.) She'll use the money Steve left for the electric bill to buy more pot, 2.) bake a new batch of cupcakes and then 3.) go to her audition. When her door-to-door dealer, an acquaintance from college also named Steve (Adam Brody, in a Rasta wig and tam), arrives, Jane realizes she doesn't have quite enough cash to cover the score. If he'll leave the weed, Jane promises to meet Steve later than afternoon at the Third Annual Hempfest in Venice Beach with the balance. Steve agrees, but if she not there by 3PM sharp, he'll confiscate all her furniture, including every pothead's most valued possession: Her bed. Jane accidentally burns the replacement pot -- the smoke gets her even higher -- and soon she's out the cash, the pot and the cupcakes. And she's already late for her audition. So begins a series of often very funny picaresque adventures that take Jane from her audition -- where she tries to sell the casting agent (the suddenly ubiquitous Jane Lynch) the bag of government weed she'd been saving for emergencies -- and a trip to the dentist with roommate Steve's friend Brevin (John Krasinski), who's in love with Jane and whom she hopes will pony up the cash, and, finally, that Ferris wheel in Venice Beach. Throughout, Faris is hilarious -- she does the best stoned face since Cheech Marin -- and even brings a little depth to her character. Jane's stoned but not stupid, and it becomes clear that her life stalled sometime during college. Before finally breaking through with 2006's MYSTERIOUS SKIN, Araki had been busying himself making movies with titles like NOWHERE, THE DOOM GENERATION and TOTALLY F***ED UP that attempted to capture the zeitgeist of a his own lost generation, but always seemed to be trying too hard. Here, working from a script by TV actor Dylan Haggerty, Araki manages to capture what he's been trying to say all along about the lives of the stoned and indifferent with the kind of effortlessness those earlier attempts sorely lacked.