Jane (Anna Faris) has a little hobby that takes up most of her time, and that hobby is getting high as a kite, so off her face that the world just doesn’t matter anymore. But there's always something threatening to kill her buzz, take today when she finds herself talking to the actual Roscoe Lee Browne, respected actor, where he sounds like he’s making a lot of sense until she begins to wonder what she is doing speaking with him, or more likely what he would be doing speaking to her, whereupon he reminds her that he isn't really Mr Browne, he is the voice of her conscience and she's stoned again. This realisation wakes her up to a further fact: how come she is literally high, in a car on a Ferris wheel?
The stoner comedy is a tricky proposition. Where marijuana is concerned, you could simply envisage your entire audience as intoxicated as possible, in which case you think they'll laugh at anything, which can lead to laziness no matter how accurate your estimation of the audience may be. Also, there's the fact that many will be watching your movie sober, and may not even want to become stoned to watch your efforts, whether it be because hash makes them really sleepy, too sleepy to watch a movie, or more probably because it doesn't appeal to be out of their minds when they're trying to appreciate a film, be that a comedy or otherwise. Nevertheless, there are stoner comedies as funny when straight as they are high.
Alas, Smiley Face was not one of them, treated with suspicion by many potheads when the day Jane goes through depicts some nightmare scenario, leaving her incapable of any normal human interaction and behaving as if she has some mental disorder rather than a serious habit. Faris certainly committed, her character out of it in every single scene, but that did mean she was trying company unless you found her hopelessness amusing, and with no variation from scene to scene you did begin to yearn for some different character to spend time with for a while: it was a good thing this was so short when the thought of a couple of hours with Jane would drive anyone sane up the wall.
Be they wasted or otherwise, as about eighty minutes of Jane slurring her way through embarrassing social situations did appear to be inviting you to lampoon her rather than acknowledge here was someone who needed serious help, and that feeling was not conducive to making you laugh. It could be that Faris was too efficient in her role, in that she came across as a real drugs casualty, and if it had been a harder substance she was on then the film might have played out as more tragedy than comedy: imagine if the more harrowing scenes in Trainspotting had been presented for giggles, you would have asked what the hell the filmmakers were thinking, or if indeed they were high themselves, yet we were invited to find the humour in Jane's dreadful situation and she was more sad than funny.
Director Gregg Araki assuredly surrounded Faris with a fine cast, most of them one or two scene wonders, such as Jane Lynch as the casting director aspiring actress Jane tries to impress, one of the few genuine chuckles in the movie, or John Cho as the meat factory worker who tries to assist by giving her a lift until she suffers her latest panic attack and flees. John Krasinski had the most substantial supporting role as Jane's flatmate’s best pal who is mystifyingly in love with her: if he was enamoured before, an hour in her company will cure him of that notion. The plot was a picaresque detailing in an odd mix of casual and insistent how she got into an escalating series of terrible troubles, so one consequence sees her risking her furniture (and ultra-comfy bed), then the next she is threatened with arrest when she accidentally steals the Communist Manifesto from Marion Ross, all very well and inventive enough, yet fatally not amusing. Jane's life is such a car crash that Smiley Face becomes painful to watch; Araki wanted to make something lighter after Mysterious Skin, but even that had more chuckles. Music by David Kitay.