Reading this NYMAG article on Anna Faris reminded me just how much I like this particularly fearless comedienne. As the focus is on mainstream appeal, I believe the author fails to register that Faris is very much a cult item, even if she is best known as the lead from the Weinstein Brothers’ self-cannibalizing Scary Movie Franchise; itself a parody of Scream Franchise, both released by Dimension, and both I suspect, went a few too many entries too far. But I digress. Having only seen the first Scary Movie franchise, with Faris hardly registering, I will give you the run down of why I like the rather chameleon starlett and why I do not want her (as Kyle Buchanan and Claude Brodesser-Akner say) to be this generations Goldie Hawn. I would rather her be somewhere in the wide middle-ground between this generations Frances McDormand and Michelle Pfeiffer.
The four performances that strike me as making the character a unique blend of bitchy-sexy and goofy-sweet are as follows: May, Lost in Translation, Smiley Face, and Observe & Report. In May she plays a dim-witted but sexy-gam’d co-worker of wall-flower Angela Bettis. When the confrontation of these two characters comes to a head, it shows Faris at her most whorish and casually bitchy. Sling-shot into another supporting turn in Sophia Coppola’s Oscar nominated film where she plays (according to legend) a caricature of Cameron Diaz. That is to say a lame, boorish A list star with fewer than two brain cells to rub together. She is used in part for the director to make a dig at Hollywood but moreso to make Scarlett Johansson’s character look a little smarter and deeper enough to drift from Giovanni Ribisi and connect to Bill Murray. This leads into Smiley Face, perhaps the best role Faris has had to date (that I’ve seen, anyway) in which the actress is de-sexed and is killing her own brain cells on a steady diet of good pot, and her figure on a steady diet of Doritos and lasagna. It might just be me, but the actress feels several inches shorter (it might by the baggy wardrobe) than she does in her other films, but no matter, it is a delight to watch her zig-zag between goofy, high-minded pontificating, paranoid, and ultimately sunny faced zone-out. Smiley Face is one of those unsung gems of 2007 – a year with too many good films that smaller, smart comedies were collateral damage. Finally, there is her supporting turn in Taxi-Driver-Turned-Comedy Seth Rogan vehicle, Observe & Report. Faris is back on supporting duty, but her ho-bag slut (Brandi, with an ‘i’) getting raped is a key scene into Rogan’s character and it is played as weird, very weird, comedy. The scene in question generated a bit of controversy upon the films release – it takes a particularly fearless actress to do a scene like this not in a big drama (where Oscar might beckon) but in a viscious/absurd comedy.
Lastly I’d be remiss to skip her vocal turn in Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs, a manic-high energy animated film that plays like Dr. Strangelove meets Dr. Seuss with its own serious case of the munchies. The voice acting is not nearly as standout as the zany smorgasbord of falling food, but that she had the good sense to take this as her first voice acting job kinds speaks volumes about her tastes in career choices. Pixar this ain’t but Cloud is too much weird fun to ignore.
You can school me on the Scary Movie sequels, The House Bunny or Alvin and The Chipmunks or Yogi Bear the kind of schlock that I tend to avoid, is Ms. Faris transcendent in this sort of junk, or merely subsumed by it? It all appears to be career fodder over doing anything with passion. Further evidence is the current rom-com with Chris Evans which does not particularly interest me, although the Larry Charles directed Sasha Baron Cohen comedy, The Dictator, seems ripe for her rather unique brand of comedy.