Scrappy Little Nobody
About four-and-a-half years ago I had a kidney transplant. A few days after the surgery, while I was still in ICU, a friend came by and brought me a copy of the movie 50/50, a drama/comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in which Gordon-Levitt’s character, Adam, receives a bleak cancer diagnosis. Adam begins to see a young, relatively inexperienced therapist named Katherine, played by Anna Kendrick. When I saw 50/50, it was my first remembered experience watching Kendrick act. I was instantly a fan; she always seemed a little awkward and uncomfortable, and I could really empathize with that. I have followed her career ever since.
Needless to say, I was psyched to learn that Kendrick was writing a book, even going so far as to request to review it two months in advance of its release. SCRAPPY LITTLE NOBODY did not disappoint. Sure, it’s not going to win a Pulitzer or National Book Award, and there are several essays that could’ve been omitted without detriment, but it was funny, welcoming and well-written. It also felt accessible, more so than other celebrity memoirs I’ve read, and made the Tony and Academy award nominee feel more like a regular crazy person rather than a famous crazy person.
"What’s great about SCRAPPY LITTLE NOBODY is that it sounds like Anna Kendrick. The way she writes is the way she talks. Her voice leaps from the page as if she’s reading it to you."
Kendrick’s gift in SCRAPPY LITTLE NOBODY is that she doesn’t take herself or her career too seriously. She grazes over the fact that she was nominated for a Tony Award at age 12 and that the role for which she won the nomination was her first on Broadway, instead focusing on how she really didn’t hit puberty until she was 16. With painstaking and embarrassing detail, she relates the tales of her dating follies and sexual misadventures, about how her small size and youthful looks were a social hindrance growing up in Maine.
She does, of course, write about her career. There is an essay dedicated to her role in the Twilight films, and Up in the Air is referenced throughout. She shares the triumph and struggle of acting in independent films at the start of a career, and the thrill of contributing to a project that carries something personal for the actor and earning nearly nothing for it when nearly nothing was all that was had before.
What’s great about SCRAPPY LITTLE NOBODY is that it sounds like Anna Kendrick. The way she writes is the way she talks. Her voice leaps from the page as if she’s reading it to you. She also doesn’t try to hide that she’s a bit of a natural mess. Her essays speak a lot to the magic of movie making and how a person can be whomever they’re supposed to be on screen, which in no way is a reflection of who they are in real life.
Towards the end of the book, Kendrick writes of her grandmother’s death and how she was in the middle of filming Pitch Perfect when she received the news. She went to the set and filmed scenes any fan of the movie knows are key to the story, while wearing waterproof mascara and sporting sunglasses between takes so as not to show the emotion she was feeling. Did any of this show on screen? No. But to read about it, you can feel the sadness and sense of duty she harbored that week on set, keeping it together while being aca-awkward.
One of my favorite anecdotes is Kendrick’s first Oscar experience, the year she was nominated for Up in the Air. The Academy Awards are Hollywood’s most glamorous night. After she attended the event, wearing an Elie Saab Haute Couture gown and sitting next to George Clooney during the ceremony, she returned home to her crappy apartment in Los Angeles, the one that had tar stains on the living room carpet, and went to bed. Oscar nomination or not, she was still just a loud, tiny girl with frizzy hair and questionable social skills. A scrappy little nobody like the rest of us.
Reviewed by Sarah Jackman on November 23, 2016