DVD Review - I Smile Back

Surprisingly, this film and comedian Sarah Silverman got nominated for Outstanding Performance at the SAG Awards this year. The Washington, DC Film Critics recognized Silverman for Best Actress. The movie overall was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it premiered. It's based on a book by Amy Koppelman. It follows a woman who's married and mother of two, young children but who is also a not-so-secret drug addict.

Sarah Silverman stars as Laney, a real housewife of suburban New York. At first, her existence in this narrative seeks to mock or subvert the idea of the "real housewife" as depicted on Bravo reality TV, not overtly but more subtle. She's a contradiction, on one hand denouncing falling in love but on the other hand attacking another mom for denouncing Thanksgiving. She embraces cynicism here but not there.

She's a cocaine-addict and her spiral downward isn't anything new to behold, but her performance is and beyond just being "crazy and hot," Silverman brings a lot to the table. Whether it's in the book, a line crafted by screenwriter Paige Dylan, or director Adam Salky, Silverman delivers on comparing prostitution to being a wife. These kinds of comparisons utilize her skills as a comedian. Yet, the look on her face when Laney confronts her father and afterwards is devastating, capitalizing on her new-found skills as a dramatic actor.

Josh Charles (The Good Wife and Masters of Sex) co-stars as Bruce, the husband to Laney who works as an insurance agent, a very successful one. He's understanding and tolerant of his wife's problems, but even he has his limits. He loves her and has a great moment where he tells us why and how. Yet, he becomes seriously worried and quite frankly scared. Charles is such a great actor that you're with him in every moment.

Obviously, the hope is that the characters will have some kind of breakthrough, but eventually it becomes watching Laney spiral until she hits rock bottom. This is not uncommon to any and every film about drug addiction. This movie offers nothing new. It's simply interesting to see the performances. It seems to be not much more than a vehicle for Silverman to shine and she does.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong sexual content, substance abuse/disturbing behavior, and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.


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