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Anna Kendrick’s constant search for a punch line

In her memoir, Scrappy Little Nobody, the actress is hiding behind a wall of sneer

Anna Kendrick’s constant search for a punch line

Book review

The recent popularity of the female memoir – or “femoir” as it is colloquially being referred to – has resulted in a number of additions to the celebrity memoirs bookshelf. In the last few years, several female entertainers – including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Lauren Graham and Amy Schumer – have penned witty autobiographical books reminiscing about their lives and careers. And even though the limitations of the genre have become increasingly apparent with each new release, it still remains popular with readers (and a source of millions of dollars for both its authors and publishers).

Following in the footsteps of the aforementioned comediennes, actress Anna Kendrick too has published a collection of humorous essays in the shape of her memoir, Scrappy Little Nobody, a sarcasm-drenched look at her journey to stardom.

The book chronicles Kendrick’s life from her early years in Maine to her burgeoning success in Hollywood. The 31-year-old actress talks about her “hyperactive little weirdo” beginnings; underage substance use, “light shoplifting”, and “bare-minimum teenage rebellion”; subsequent “experiments in adulthood” and how she continues to be “a bit of a man-child”. Topics that repeatedly come up include her size and petiteness, being prone to anxiety, and her awkwardness which makes her “terrible in every social situation”.

On the acting front, Kendrick discusses her start in the entertainment industry at a young age and shares memories of her early auditions, the efforts of her family to make her showbiz career possible, and her (negative) feelings towards child stars (even though she was one herself). She goes on to write about working in theatre productions, making independent films and finally making it big with roles in movies like the popular Twilight saga (2008 – 2011), her Academy Award-nominated performance in Up in the Air (2009), and the commercially successful Pitch Perfect series (2012 – present).

Driven by her sarcastic, self-deprecating style, Scrappy Little Nobody finds the author sharing stories from the various stages of her life in a candid manner. But the tone makes you feel like she is trying a little too hard to seem charming and relatable. While there are times that the actress’s humour really does shine through, there are also plenty of moments where the jibes just feel forced or simply fall flat. The writer’s constant search for a punch line also makes it hard for the reader to get an intimate look at the author who seems to be hiding behind a wall of sneer. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that Kendrick doesn’t let her words paint her portrait – she insists on constantly telling us about herself and her personality instead of letting us get to know her through her anecdotes and stories.

Also, there is not much substance in the book, and most of her discussions remain surface level. The fairly young entertainer seems to have lived a relatively regular, conflict-free life, so there don’t appear to be any particularly remarkable or unusual stories she can share with us.

To her credit, Kendrick never claims that her book has any depth, and states early on that she has “no advice” for readers. “I do have a truckload of opinions,” she adds, “which I will happily prattle on about to anyone who gives me an opening”, which is precisely what she does. The writer describes the contents of the book as being “for entertainment purposes only”, and if you’re a fan of her work and particularly her tweets, then it is likely that you will enjoy her sassy style and find the book entertaining. But it is hard to deny the fact that she could have made her essays a lot more interesting and compelling.

The Tony and Oscar nominated performer could have delved deeper into the topics she braces, or at least shared more stories from her acting gigs and interactions with other Hollywood stars. But even when she talks about working on her most well known projects, she generally doesn’t go into much detail. There are, however, times when she does choose to discuss something uninteresting at length and just comes off as dull. Kendrick mentions some of her co-stars – like George Clooney, Kristen Stewart, and Zac Efron – but you can’t discern much about them from her brief remarks. She discusses her love life in more detail than necessary though, and both her content and language often seem crude and unnecessarily profane.

Ultimately, Scrappy Little Nobody is a light, mildly enjoyable read, but it simply isn’t as delightful as you’d hope based on how charming Anna Kendrick seems on screen. Her uninhibited, rambling style does make you feel like you’re hanging out with an overly chatty friend, albeit a friend who doesn’t have anything particularly substantial to say. The book reads like a formulaic femoir but fans will still enjoy the stories she shares from her personal life, award shows and film sets. Everyone else, however, will probably be better off giving this one a pass. The actress needs to get more life experience and develop more maturity as a writer. Towards the end of the volume, she says she’ll “write another book when [she’s] seventy”. Maybe that one will actually be worth reading.

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