Sunday, October 24, 2010

Take Three: Anna Faris

Craig here with Take Three.

Today: Anna Faris

Take One: Even cowgirls get the blues

I’m always up for a spot of Brokeback love. I know there's been plenty of attention around these parts in the past but let’s divert the love that-a-way. Let’s ride sidesaddle and gallop slightly away from Jake ‘n’ Heath. And Michelle 'n' Anne. And Ang. Hey, look, it’s Anna Faris as Lashawn Malone in Brokeback Mountain (2005).

I’d just seen Faris in Just Friends when barely a week later (January 2006) Brokeback was released here in the UK. The complete contrast between Faris in the two films caught me off guard. She pops up ninety-minutes in during a couples’ C&W night-out scene with Jake Gyllenhaal & Anne Hathaway.  She “talks a blue streak” without much pause for breath – and in doing so fills the gap where a homoerotic attraction is becoming increasingly apparent between Jack Twist and Lashawn’s husband Randall (David Harbour). Jack and Lashawn dance; she continues to chatter. A new scene comes and goes with Lashawn entering and chattering her way gaily through it.

It’s a minuscule part but one that actively enhances the film. And Faris, with a touch of cowgirl glamour creates a world for Lashawn that is surely real and would be utterly believable if we were to follow her story instead of Lureen’s and Alma’s. The other Brokeback wives have their moments of realisation and breakdown; Lashawn, being a passing, peripheral character, doesn’t get hers (Randall is another “confused” cowpoke). But, thanks to the key manner in which Faris makes palpable the glimmers of anxiety in Lashawn’s gasbagging, we know she’ll suffer as Lureen and Alma do.

Take Two: Coppola load of this casting coup

There are some things I liked about Lost in Translation (2003), and some things I didn’t. Anna Faris is the crux of my love-hate relationship with the film. I like her. I dislike the reason she’s (ostensibly) there. Faris is vibrant, lively and gleefully adorable as Kelly, the flaky blond actress who tender, sensitive Charlotte bumps into in the Tokyo hotel lobby. Her small segment – or I should say zesty interruption – perked me up just as I was beginning to get fed up with ScarJo’s misery. Faris shows her personality here even when she’s meant to be showing... Cameron Diaz’s, wasn’t it?

It takes a sharp skill to play a vapid, questionably-talented and intentionally annoying bimbo like Kelly, and do it well, but Faris possesses it; the role wouldn’t have been half as memorable or crucial without her.

Lost in Translation has its staunch defenders as well as its starchy detractors. I'm on the fence. But isn't Coppola fille displaying her snarky, precious side when she hires one – fairly unknown at the time – comedy actress to allegedly impersonate another – far more famous – one, just to imply something underhanded about the latter through the (admittedly spot-on) talents of the former? Is this indicative of the peculiarities of the largely hidden squabbles buried within the Hollywood community? It taints the film for me, but no matter. Faris knocks her scenes out of the hotel car park. She got to stretch her craft and add a different slant to her filmography whilst being wonderfully, enthusiastically familiar. Were we meant to share in Charlotte's lofty derision of Kelly? I know I didn't. I was too busy enjoying Faris.

Take Three: One order of Anna – to stay

For the third take, I meant to feature Faris' Monroe routine over a steaming manhole in The House Bunny. But after accidentally catching Waiting... (2006) for the third time, I couldn’t resist scribbling a few words on her role as Serena, ex-girlfriend to co-lead Ryan Reynolds, who works, like all the characters do, at the brilliantly named theme restaurant Shenaniganz.

Faris’ role is clearly supporting, but she breezes on screen with the bright confidence of a lead. Her pin-sharp and perfectly delivered put-down of Ryan Reynolds in one of Waiting...’s best scenes is a joy to watch and watch again. (Watch it many times: Faris’ timing is exquisite.) Faris and Reynolds (and scriptwriter Rob McKittrick) create an entertaining scene – a crude, rude re-take on the sparring couples slapstick banter - that's full of choice insults and great Faris facial expressions. Without much fuss the scene humorously reconfigures the tired old Battle of the Sexes thing into something daft and genuinely funny, just in miniature, with the couple wearing garish work uniforms emblazoned with their names.

Faris gets the upper hand. She keeps it, works it, and walks off with it by the time she’s verbally downsized Reynolds to a portion small fries. It’s a relishable, smile-inducing comic performance. I'm so on team Faris.

In a relatively short span of time, the actress has contributed so much to a commendable amount of movies that the three takes above (and three mentions below) don’t do her true justice. Judy Holliday, Lucille Ball, Goldie Hawn, Jennifer Coolidge... I’d be happy to include Faris in any future line-up of comedy gal greats. (Rumour has it that she'll be in Ghostbusters III and a remake of Private Benjamin. Good times.)

Three more key films for the taking: May (2000), Smiley Face (2006), The House Bunny (2007).


pomme said...

i(really) remember her in "may" and "scary movie" and i may see her in several other movies but every time it's "where did i yet see this actress?"

Liz said...

I know it's possible for a good performance to appear in a bad film (and vice versa), but I hate "The House Bunny" so much that it's basically impossible for me to see Anna Faris's performance in a positive light.

Liz said...

Seriously, the comparisons to "Legally Blonde" (which has a few things going for it outside of Witherspoon) were just insulting to the latter film.

Lucky said...

She's amazing. There was a moment in Just Friends (lame movie, but she's great in it) where I stopped and thought how hard to pull off was what she was doing on screen. She's hilarious. Best comedic actress of her generation by far

/3rtfu11 said...

You do a Take Three on Anna Faris and you don’t include Observe and Report? For no other reason but to bring up the hilarious moment featured in all the television ads when asked after being flashed in the parking lot is her character all right, she says “Physically yes, but emotionally Noooooooooo.” That’s the single greatest thing ever.

Dan said...

Good actress but far too many crap films.

katie said...

Honestly, I think her best stuff is in those 'scary movie' movies. It's the same gag over and over again, but I think she's just so funny in them.

sp said...

Anna Faris is one of the best contemporary comedic actresses , but I just hate it when she goes over-the-top comedically- so annoying. I would love for Christopher Guest , Judd Apatow , or David Wain to work with her, so she can truly shine comedically.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

I LOVE Anna Faris. She has made a ton of awful movies but she's always the MVP in all of them and everyone can see she deserves much better.

I thought The House Bunny was a lovely mess. Horrible but still a lot of fun. And she was exquisitely funny. And that face. Those eyes and those expressions.

She rocks. Period.

jahs34 said...

She was excellent in The Hot Chick.

Glenn said...

I love this woman.

She should have multiple Oscar nominations by now, and I am not joking. Her performances in Smiley Face ("garfield..."), The House Bunny and Lost in Translation border on true genius.

Ryan said...

awesome post! i've actually had the pleasure of meeting anna and she's just as bit as sweet and funny as she is on-screen.

James T said...

I'm relieved to know that I'm not the only one who really likes her!

But why do I not remember her in Brokeback Mountain? I have to rewatch it soon. But I'm not sure I can take it during this period of my life.

Anonymous said...

she's AMAZINGGGGGGG in smiley face!!!

Sean P said...

True fact: Anna Faris is more or less the only famous alumnus of my alma mater, Edmonds-Woodway High School, a few miles north of Seattle. (There are two kinds of people in the world: Warriors and those who wish they were.) Alas, I was several years behind so I have no stories to share.

Although while I'm pimping local ties I'll note that my collegiate alma mater, the University of Washington, has produced a disproportionate share of comic actors recently in Faris, Joel McHale, and Rainn Wilson. Clearly this means Faris is headed for a spot on NBC's Thursday night lineup.

theoncominghope said...

Great post! I've never thought about her much, but it definitely took talent to play that vapid character in Lost in Translation!

You're right about the comic timing too. Colour me impressed.

Unknown said...

Anna Faris is one of the greatest comedic actresses of her generation whose greatness has been marred by the terrible roles/terrible films that she has acted in. For every May (I was blown away by her hillarity in this) there is a Scary Movie.

Hollywood seems to be unsure about what to do with her: is she the goofy girl or the hot leading lady? She's both but there aren't too many good roles for someone in between these two "types."

Nonetheless, Anna made the final cut in my "Best actors under age 40" list found on my blog here:

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

Have you ever seen Smiley Face? It's definitely my favorite film of hers. I feel like she really got the pothead thing down pat. I'm also very excited about Private Benjamin.

Glenn said...

The main problem with the majority of her films is their immaturity. I'd love for Private Benjamin to be smart and witty, but I can't help but feel they'll throw in a bunch of toilet humour and so forth and ruin it.