Hollywood is such a big world to be a part of which also makes it really easy to live in anonymity, whether you want it or not. It’s such a shame that only the famous people should get recognition for their work, whether it be great or, the more often, otherwise, when great performers become mere details to the grander picture. But the devil is in the details, and so many build their platform there before they go from space dust to comet.
It wouldn’t surprise me if you’d never heard of Ari Graynor. Except to her fans and to film buffs, she’s just a vaguely familiar face. But the Boston native, though she has been acting for some time, made her unappreciated presence known with her films of 2012, all of which, unfortunately for you, you probably missed. Celeste & Jesse Forever, a wannabe modern Annie Hall vanity project starring former SNL star And Samberg and the thoroughly mediocre Rashida Jones, was good enough a film. The synopsis is that Samberg and Jones’s characters, two married best friends getting a divorce, pursue other relationships while trying to maintain their friendship. The characters, especially Jones, spend so much time floundering in their misery and self-pity, that it’s almost not worth seeing – and yet the supporting cast of Emma Roberts, Chris Messina, and of course Ari Graynor, make it intriguing enough to watch all ninety-two minutes. Graynor plays the levelheaded, engaged best friend to Jones’s whiny divorcee. Graynor lightens and enlivens the generally maudlin film in her scenes with her genuineness and sweet silliness. On the other end of the spectrum there’s her first big starring roll ever in For a Good Time, Call…. She plays Katie, a girl down on her luck who is forced to take her old college frenemy as a roommate in order to keep her apartment. Both without stable jobs, the girls decide to start up a phone sex company. The whole film is as crass and zany as you could expect (women will find it funnier than men will), a surprisingly simple buddy story where two women find a bonding experience in the weirdest of places. Graynor is fearless, diving into the ridiculousness full speed, hilariously over-the-top with the phone sex scenes and especially so with her how-to business tutorial with her more naïve roommate, schooling her in the tricks of the trade with everything from breathing exercises to vocabulary lessons and utilization of sex toys.
If you ever get a chance to look at the rest of her filmography with the express intention of getting to know her better as an actress, Graynor doesn’t disappoint. Whether she’s the wasted best friend Caroline in Lorene Scafaria’s Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, or the roller derby badass Eva Destruction in Whip It! or the flaky, desperate object of affection for Jonah Hill in last year’s The Sitter, she’s always stealing the moment. In a year relatively absent of strong comic films and performances, Graynor, especially with For a Good Time, Call…, is fresh air. A note to all you casting directors out there: do yourself a favor and cast the master of comic timing in more movies. You won’t regret it.