By Christian DiMartino
Sarah Silverman can act. Who knew? I didn’t. Up until today, I was convinced her best work was in Wreck It Ralph, if that tells you anything. But in I Smile Back, Silverman is put front and center, and it’s a raw, bold performance. Too bad the movie around her isn’t better. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s a bit wobbly.
Silverman plays Laney Brooks, a woman who seems to have it all. She has a loving husband (Josh Charles), two wonderful children, a nice house. She also, on the darker side of things, does whatever drugs she wants, and sleeps with whoever she wants to. Huh, not so perfect after all.
So not long into the movie, we find her coming clean, and following this, she is sent to a rehab of some sorts. We root for this character to pull herself together, but director Adam Salky, like the viewer, knows that old habits die hard. Hence why when Laney gets out of rehab, the relapse is such a kicker.
Kind of like Reese Witherspoon in last year’s Wild, it is refreshing to find someone who is normally funny give such a raw performance. I was surprised to see Silverman receive a SAG award nomination. She probably won’t get Oscar attention, but at least someone recognized this dark, tragic work.
The problem, for me at least, is that it feels like a ballsier Lifetime movie. The filmmaking isn’t necessarily spectacular. It feels fairly by-the-book, and at times, so does its premise. Also, after seeing it, I’m not really sure what point the filmmakers were trying to get across. I thought I knew, until its vague ending.
Nevertheless, you should watch it, at least once, to see Silverman pull it off. It also has a strong supporting performance from Charles as her husband.
They give excellent performances, in an acceptable movie.