Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
If you don’t adore Anna Kendrick, then you’ve either never come across any of her movies or you’re just in denial because I don’t buy for a second that anyone who’s seen her on screen could believe her to be anything other than an absolute delight! From charming little indie flicks like Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas to big box office hits such as Into the Woods and Pitch Perfect, the Academy Award nominated actress has amassed a vast and varied filmography that makes her one of the most endearingly diverse stars in Hollywood today. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, she’s also a pretty swell singer!
As if all of the above doesn’t make for an impressive enough CV though, she can now add author to her list of occupations thanks to the arrival of her very first literary endeavour, Scrappy Little Nobody. This enchanting autobiographical novel, which hit shelves in bookstores worldwide on November 15th, recounts experiences from Anna’s early years on the American east coast through to her adulthood in LA while also offering up a lot of admirably earnest and invariably entertaining insights into her inner psyche.
As one may expect from a woman who’s renowned for her amusing posts on social media, Anna’s approach to writing here is incredibly colloquial, but that doesn’t mean that Scrappy Little Nobody is in any way poorly structured. On the contrary, Kendrick proves herself to be an extremely adept author by demonstrating that she knows the difference between stating facts and constructing a narrative.
I’ve read plenty of biographical accounts in the past that are a chore to get through because they just state what happened in a mundane, matter-of-fact manner that’s similar to some sleepy scientific summary or uninspired academic essay. Anna, on the other hand, injects plenty of pep and personality into her work, treating it like she’s actually talking to another human being rather than composing a prosaic list of things she thinks and remembers. The captivatingly conversational tone of the text maintains an air of amiability that really draws you in and gets you genuinely invested in what she has to say.
While it’s not a strictly chronological account of the actress’s life, the book begins by relating a fun but affectionate story about how her older brother inspired her to perform before she goes on to give an engrossingly grounded explanation of what it was like to be a child on Broadway.
This serves as the springboard for a series of equally incisive tales that chart the trials and triumphs that arose as she left the Big Apple behind to embark on a quest to carve out a lucrative career for herself as an actress in Los Angeles. In recapping what happened while she attempted to infiltrate the movie industry, she very effectively conveys the fact that working in the performing arts is most definitely not a walk in the park.
Before this book came along, I admired Anna Kendrick the actress, but after reading it, I really respect Anna Kendrick the person. The stories she shares show that everything she’s achieved has been the result of an extraordinary amount of effort and endurance on her part. She had a dream and she very adroitly illustrates how hard she fought to make it come true, which makes for some extremely inspirational reading.
It’s even more admirable that she manages to do this without ever coming across as egotistical or self-righteous. Scrappy Little Nobody is surely one of the most non-pretentious accounts of life in show business that you’re ever likely to encounter. There’s a strong sense of normalcy surrounding all of the memories and musings that pad out its pages. Anna Kendrick may be a famous actress, but this book is just an honest memoir told in a remarkably humble way that nonchalantly shows how delightfully down to earth its author is.
She does a fantastic job of humanising Hollywood through anecdotes that accentuate how impersonal and procedural high profile red carpet events are and how farcical the fashion scene can be, while her tendency to talk about topics such as the woes of working in miserable weather and how her personal life is affected by acting obligations endows the chapters on movie-making with plenty of charm and intimacy.
However, there’s much more to Scrappy Little Nobody than stories about the ins and outs of toiling in Tinseltown. The parts of it that deal with dating actually make for quite a compelling coming-of-age tale and it’ll probably be reassuring to many of Anna’s fans to discover that one of their favourite celebrities experienced situations and sentiments similar to those that they may have gone through themselves growing up. Whether it was her intention or not, Anna has forged a fairly relatable account of adolescence, most of which can be appreciated by both men and women because, as she points out herself, certain issues transcend gender.
This isn’t the only aspect of the book with which it’s easy to identify though. While I have no first-hand knowledge of what the nightlife in LA is like, I appreciated her assertion that it didn’t matter if she wasn’t having fun during her first forays into Californian nightclubs, she just pretended she was so she could say she was there later. This reminded me of venturing into venues in Dublin during my late teens where most of the time everyone would just stand around in silence sipping drinks because no one could hear one another anyway and the question of whether or not it was genuinely enjoyable was rarely considered.
Then there’s the chapter entitled “Batten Down the Hatches”, which initially seemed like a bit of a random digression, but ended up being a strikingly accurate take on how your mind-set changes as you get older. Admittedly, I can’t relate to having an epiphany after being bashed around by bad weather on a boat, but I do know well that there were things I did socially ten years ago that I’d recoil from now.
This particular chapter marks the midway point of Scrappy Little Nobody’s spellbinding self-titled swansong section, which begins with a heartrending recount of Anna’s journey to and from her grandmother’s funeral while filming the first Pitch Perfect. Everything about her work from the author’s note onwards is endearingly earnest, but I found this story to be especially affecting.
It’s followed by what might be my favourite part of the entire book due to how wonderfully whimsical it is. I defy anyone to read “Fake Parties I Have Planned with the Detail of a Real Party” and not want to go to her fake Christmas party! The New Year’s Eve one sounds like good craic too because, god knows, it really is “the worst of the high-pressure, forced-fun offenders”!
To be honest, I could probably ramble on about Scrappy Little Nobody for another fifteen paragraphs because I just enjoyed it that much. There’s a lot I intended to discuss that I didn’t touch upon, but if I addressed every single thing I thought was conversation worthy, this review could quickly transition into a mini-dissertation!
Anna has delivered a remarkably well-written and witty autobiography that strikes the perfect balance between being fun and meaningful. If you like the idea of a book that’s guaranteed to get you smiling while simultaneously being enticingly sincere and stirring, then you’re going to love Scrappy Little Nobody. But be warned, you’ll probably want to be best friends with its author by the time you’re done!
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