Life’s a Big Hot Mess: ‘Smiley Face’ Is an Unconnected Mess, But You Don’t Have to Be.

Day 8

I had to double check what day it was today lol.

I had a morbid thought yesterday: the suicide rate has to have unquestionably risen exponentially over the last week, right? When this is all over, the actual death total directly from COVID-19 is going to be a set-in stone number when “this” is all over, but the actual death total is a number that we can’t possibly reconcile with.

This is a very scary time for many people, for reasons with ancillary connections to the present circumstances. I mentioned yesterday that it’s a scary time for myself in the sense that old patterns are re-emerging, and I’m freaked out about them. It’s a scary time, and many may need the help of prevention services. I’m going to leave Canada’s National Suicide Prevention Line right here: 1-833-456-4566. I’m hoping that it might save a life.

Gregg Araki’s Smiley Face is a weird place to end the weekend, a weekend that was very difficult in that I could feel the absence of life. I did not sleep very well last night, and did not sleep a lot. I have not done four hours of anxiety ridden sleep in a few years (which is a good thing), and am thus, very out of practice. My focus level right now is similar to Jane’s (Anna Faris), in that I feel kind of punch drunk. Each sentence feels like it’s collapsing in front of my eyes.

Smiley Face is hilarious. There is a sequence where Jane discusses how much she loves lasagna, and that her appreciation of lasagna can be best embodied by a theoretical photo of Garfield as the President of the United States. There’s a look of pure bliss that passes over her face, as the pot-induced mind-tangent pleases her. She then is given a first-edition copy of The Communist Manifesto because of course she is.

Gregg Araki is known for his flamboyant style, best exemplified by the depravity of his mid-90s Doom Generation trilogy. He has also directed an episode of Riverdale, the greatest television program known to man. Araki is wonderfully suited to the madcap story of a stoner actress, who accidentally eats a dozen pot cupcakes after smoking a fat bowl, all before 10am. There are several leaps of logic present in Smiley Face, but the biggest is the idea that someone could ingest that much cannabis and still be standing.

Araki doubles down on the ridiculousness of his situation. Most attempts to play act being high fail. They stretch into realms of unbelievability. This one works because Araki is so far into the realm of unbelievability in terms of Jane’s tolerance level of the substance, that you have no choice but to say, “sure, someone that high and somehow still managing to semi-function is probably capable of anything.”

This is a star-studded cast. 2007 is probably one of the last times you could get John Krasinski and John Cho into your SXSW premiere. Maybe you could still do something with the latter, but the former is certainly out of the question. You probably couldn’t get Krasinski to play a dweeby, lust-lorn, last-ditch effort in the phone book guy either.

I had a pair of long conversations last night. One with my family, one with my partner. They’re all on edge right now. I’m on edge right now. But at least we’re on edge together. This is where the importance of connection comes into play. I saw someone’s musings that social distancing was the wrong term, and physical distancing would’ve removed some of the isolation of a lot of people presently feel.

Smiley Face is episodic, disjointed, wild and wonderful. It was all a brain moving too fast could focus on last night, and it’s all that my brain could continue to focus on today. Thus, this is a much shorter post than usual. Stay safe folks. You’re not alone.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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