So last night after finishing another lengthy write up in my Dear Potheads series, I decided to watch my personal favorite stoner classic, Smiley Face. It is not a perfect movie, but outside of the Youtube/TV series Broad City, this is the only female fronted stoner comedy out there. I know a couple of years back Natalie Portman was attached to a female driven stoner comedy, but unfortunately this has not panned out.
Stoner comedies are primarily a Boys' Club, wherein the female lead is usually brushed off as the uptight harpy who rolls her eyes and waits for the stoner to get their act together. There are occasionally bit roles for female stoners in these male driven comedies, but they're pretty much relegated to one dimensional tropes and get a handful of dialogue at most. Charlene Yi was a refreshing sight in Knocked Up, if only because it is still so rare to see women allowed to be funny in this way. But as far as dimensional female visibility goes, this was the extent.
Now, Smiley Face did something rather brave in casting Anna Faris as the bumbling and incoherent Jane. Her character is aimless, spending most of her days playing video games and living off of her residual acting checks and unemployment. She has a creepy roommate who puts up with her stoner antics, and for once a male/female roomate situation wasn't played for sexual tension. She messes up in some monumentally bad ways, and she does it while being funny. Her inner monologue has nothing to do with men outside of her need to pay her dealer and make up for eating her roommate's cupcakes.
It's sad to me how great it was to see a woman be allowed to mess up and be a little ugly without apologizing as a lead, because it is just that rare. Most of the characters in the movie saw her for who she really was, a fully actualized fuck up of a human being. But there were still two characters that stuck out and ruined my experience in fully enjoying this movie.
John Krasinski plays Brevin Ericson, a friend of Jane's roommate with an immense crush on Jane. He is friendzoned Nice Guy incarnate, and quite literally the last person on her list she wants to call for help. He agrees to help her out of one of her many jams, but only does so while fantasizing about Jane falling in love with him for doing so. In his mind, she's this sexy construct so far removed from her actual self that it takes away all of the power the has given to her as a character with a personality.
The other character, in a bit role played by John Cho, is Mikey the delivery driver. He finds her asleep in the back of his truck and offers to give her a ride to where she needs to go. While waiting in traffic, instead of relating to her in any human way, he also fantasizes about this woman in a hypersexual manner. He daydreams about her coming on to him right in the middle of bumper to bumper traffic. This is where his character turns from friendly to outright predatory. Jane is, of course, still wrapped up in her own fuzzy mind thinking about the things she needs to accomplish when he tries to kiss her. She ends up running away, not because he is predatory, but because she's got things she needs to do and traffic is holding her back. She is quickly rescued from the side of the road by a female motorcyclist.
The whole time watching this movie, I could not help but scream inside my head "SHE IS NOT SOBER! DO NOT TRY TO ENGAGE IN SEXUAL CONTACT WITH SOMEONE WHO IS CLEARLY NOT SOBER!" Neither male character is called out for their behavior. Instead, it is skirted along in favor of keeping the plot moving. This is problematic on many levels.
Can't we do a little better in representing women in the pro-cannabis subset of the movie industry? Can we not be objectified even when we are the lead? All I can say is thank goodness for Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer for coming along with Broad City. Maybe it's a small step in the right direction.