Monday, February 16, 2009


UPDATED February 16 11:59 p.m.

Sans a meaty religious/moral dilemma, a grim human trafficking situation, the opportunity for self-righteous indignation over the bungled treatment of the case of a missing child, or facing the consequences of one’s responsibility for involvement in the Holocaust, what’s a brilliantly talented comic actress to do? Get overlooked for all the major year-end awards, including Oscar, that’s what. In a perfect world, one in which the academy supposedly devoted to excellence in motion pictures, but which routinely ignores genius-level comic performances or finds a way to ghettoize them in supporting role categories, actually acknowledged the age-old dictum that comedy is hard, Angelina or Melissa would have been kicked to the curb to make room for Anna Faris's hilarious sunburst performance in The House Bunny. Faris is utterly winning as Shelley Darlingson, a Playboy bunny apparently booted from the Mansion for being too old who pulls herself up by her pump straps and gets a job as a house mother for a dweeby sorority (populated, among others, by Superbad’s Emma Stone and Nick and Norah’s Kat Dennings). She teaches them self-confidence and self-esteem, and they teach her that she doesn’t have to use sex to assert her personality or her intelligence. The formula is well-worn (the movie is, after all, from the folks who gave you Legally Blonde), but Faris’ pure incandescence transcends the limitations of the plot; she makes every scene she’s in feel like it’s something brand-new through a combination of brilliant timing, vocal mannerisms, physical grace (and its opposite, cannily choreographed clumsiness) and pure movie star charm.

Until you can run out and rent the DVD, here's the trailer for The House Bunny

It is not Faris's, or Shelley’s, aim to simply fly in the face of political correctness, but to counter those predisposed to write Shelley off as a hopeless dope with evidence of the humanity underneath the pratfalls and misguided attempts at romance. If AMPAS wasn’t so determined to write off terrific comic performances as somehow less important than Big Mac Oscar bait the likes of which Meryl and Kate are serving up this year, there might be room for recognizing just how good Anna Faris is, in movie after movie, since her inauspicious start in the Scary Movie series. But so be it-- Carole Lombard got one Oscar nomination (for My Man Godfrey), but she’s no less beloved for that. Faris would be lucky to find the right part at the right time for a similar honor. But for now, if the red-band trailer for the upcoming Observe and Report (directed by The Foot Fist Way’s Jody Hill) is any indication, she’s poised to steal a movie right out from underneath it-boy Seth Rogen’s soiled sneakers with another wild comic turn unlikely to light up Oscar’s radar, however wonderful it may turn out to be. If you’re looking to do some Oscar catch-up this week and can't make it out to The Reader or Doubt, and there’s no copies of Changeling or Frozen River to be found at your local Blockbuster, do yourself a favor—have some fun with a performance every bit the equal of any of those (and in the case of Jolie, clearly the better), rent The House Bunny, and in between hearty laughs just imagine what Faris’ acceptance speech would have been like. Someday maybe we won’t have to imagine, but Oscar or not, we've still got Shelley.

Here's Faris and Rogen et al in the red-band trailer for the upcoming Observe and Report. Beware, there be nasty language herein.


UPDATE: In a downright eerie coincidence, Paul Matwychuk posted this entry on his blog The Moviegoer mere hours before my own affirmation of Anna Faris's talents. In "Anna Faris for Best Actress!" he lists the most undesreved actual nominee, the most obvious snub and the "In Our Dreams" perfect nominee in five major categories, and I think he's 100% right on every call. I especially relate to his indifference for Benjamin Button and his enthusiasm for Brad Pitt instead in Burn After Reading, or Jane Lynch in Role Models, or David Straithairn in My Blueberry Nights. If I'd just woken up, I might be convinced that I wrote this piece myself, so aligned is it with my own point of view. Do check it out as part of your Oscar Week enjoyment, and once again, all hail Anna Faris!



Paul Matwychuk said...

Wow... we're definitely on the same wavelength today, Dennis:

Eerie, right?

Anonymous said...

The only scenes of this trailer that are any good are Faris'. I'm getting really tired of Seth Rogen.

bill r. said...

I think Observe and Report looks, quite frankly, downright hilarious. But the biggest laugh I got was from Faris: "....don't stop, motherfucker!"

I mean...that's truly a brilliant delivery. I'm not kidding.

I watched The House Bunny over the weekend, and I watched it for her, and she's the only thing that carried me through it. Yes, I have a crush on Anna Faris. We all do. But she's good, too.

Neil Fulwood said...

Faris's performance is akin to Amy Adams's in 'Enchanted' - a pitch perfect characterisation marked out by sheer radiance and genius comic timing ... and what has the Academy nominated her for? looking all glum an scowly in a habit in 'Doubt'.

Good comedic performances are exceptionally difficult to achieve - Adams and Faris have delivered two of the best in recent years, making films that would otherwise have had little to recommended them unmissable.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Paul, I commented on your site. Yes, that's downright eerie, all right. But I'm happy that the stars aligned for Anna Faris, even if it's just a couple of blog posts. I hope she'll somehow find her way to either of our sites and understand just how appreciated she is. And I really did think each and every one of your other picks were spot on.

Rick, Bill: I'm getting tired of Seth Rogen too-- witness my none-too-excited reaction to Pineapple Express and Zach and Miri Make a Porno. But I have to say I agree with Bill-- this movie looks pretty amusing. Did either of you see The Foot Fist Way? Granted, much of that movie has to do with Danny McBride's fearless performance. But the director, Jody Hill, showed admirable restraint and not just a little smarts in the craft department, and I hope he'll bring something similar to this party. And Faris's way around that "Don't stop, motherfucker" line makes me look forward to every word that's gonna come out of her mouth in this one. It is a brilliant delivery. And Bill, you are absolutely right-- we all do have a crush on her, but that doesn't mean she isn't really good!

Neil: You know, you keyed in on something that I was kind of hovering around in the writing of my post but never really zeroed in on. The minute Anna Faris, should she ever shine in a "serious" dramatic role, will get the Amy Adams treatment you describe, while her great comic work will likely always go unrecognized. As for The House Bunny, I do think it's better than just Faris' performance too. Of course it is formulaic as all hell, but the turns provided by Beverly D'Angelo, Emma Stone, Kat Dennings and especially Dana Goodman as the slightly odd, tobacco-chewing, Chief Bromden-esque Carrie Mae, provide excellent support and enrich the appeal of the movie, giving us even more to enjoy than Faris's charm and comic chops.

bill r. said...

Dennis, I did see The Foot Fist Way and I have to say that, apart from McBride, I was pretty underwhelmed. I just didn't laugh that much. But regardless, this new one looks like my kinda movie.

Anonymous said...

I just watched "Smiley Face" this week and thought Faris was amazing in that. Her timing was ... perfect? Though the movie couldn't maintain the momentum of the pre-credit sequence, Faris carried the movie's plot through the rough patches by being so, well, likable.

Anonymous said...