Take Three: Anna Faris

Posted by julian On 12:00 PM
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).

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