Sarah Silverman and Josh Charles in I Smile Back
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Sundance Movie Review: I Smile Back

Let’s get this out of the way, although it stars comedienne Sarah Silverman, I SMILE BACK is not a lighthearted comedy. It’s not even a dark comedy. This is pretty much as dramatic as movies come. But that should not keep you from seeing the movie. Like REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, this film is one of the few times a no-holds-barred female story about disillusionment with suburban life has been told. The filmmakers, and especially Silverman herself, hold nothing back as their lead character tries to put on a pretty face with her loved ones and friends, while screaming for help on the inside. Although some may see this film as emotionally draining, I find it to be a compelling look at a woman’s struggle to be the perfect wife and mother, while also struggling with debilitating inner demons.

I SMILE BACK is a devastatingly realistic story about a woman’s battle with depression and addiction. Laney (Sarah Silverman) is a woman who seems to have everything: a loving husband, two beautiful kids, and a gorgeous house… but she isn’t happy. Bubbling under the surface is a woman in a deep depression. Laney has a history of mental illness and has stopped taking her medication. She has instead secretly (and eventually not-so-secretly) turned to self-destruction, abusing alcohol, cocaine and THC-laced lollipops, and has sex with her friend’s husband.

Sarah Silverman and Josh Charles blowing out birthday cake candles

The fact that she seems to have a perfect life only makes the situation worse. Laney is spiraling out of control, yet she feels guilty for being unhappy. As the situation becomes more and more dire, and she is increasingly less able to hide her dangerous behavior, Laney checks herself into rehab. But will she be able to keep the demons at bay?

While this description may make Laney sound unlikeable, that isn’t the case. With all of her faults and erratic behavior, Silverman somehow finds a way to make you root for Laney. Even in the film’s more cringe-worthy moments, such as Laney… um… humping her daughter’s stuffed bear during a particularly bad bender, my heart went out to Laney more than I was disgusted by her behavior. The script and especially Silverman’s performance showed a woman teetering on the edge, and her behavior was more unsettling and sad than anything else; I just wanted her to be okay.

While the movie is good, Sarah Silverman’s performance is absolutely extraordinary. I don’t think anyone can or will argue that. Silverman is coming for that Oscar. I hate saying that so early, but Silverman’s performance in this film is beyond exceptional and most importantly, believable. It’s no surprise either. Silverman has been great in supporting roles in such movies as TAKE THIS WALTZ. I’m glad she was finally given the chance to lead a movie herself and show her incredible range. If the distributor that picks up I SMILE BACK has enough money for an Oscar campaign, we will be seeing “Oscar nominee” behind Silverman’s name by this time next year. Mark my words.

I’m so happy I SMILE BACK will bring Silverman the accolades she deserves. Unfortunately, due to its depressing subject matter, the movie is going to be a tough sell to distributors. But when it does find the right home, I expect Silverman’s performance will bring many eyes to this film and new opportunities knocking.

My Review: B+

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