Drugs, sex, booze, and other stuff is bad. Remember that, kids.
Laney (Sarah Silverman) is going through a bit of a rough patch. For one, she’s a housewife who doesn’t know what to do with her time, except do drugs, drink, and have sex with a married-man (Thomas Sadoski). Obviously, this is fun for a little bit of time, but after awhile, it begins to not only take a toll on her life, but her husband (Josh Charles)’s as well. This leads to plenty of fights and random shouting matches, but what this really gets down to the bottom of is that Laney, no matter if she wants to admit it or not, needs help. So, she seeks it out by going to rehab and finds out more about her life than she had ever expected. Through rehab, she realizes that due to her poor childhood, she’s never learned to love anyone else or even herself, for that matter. Knowing this now, she wants to get back into the groove of her normal life, but sometimes, that’s better said, then actually done, leading Laney possibly back to her old life of risque raunchiness where nobody is happy, including especially, herself.
For the past few years or so, Sarah Silverman’s been itching herself into far more deeper, more challenging, and overall, more dramatic roles as of late. But none of them have ever been nearly as dark or as demanding as her role in I Smile Back. Not only is Silverman hardly cracking a joke here, but she’s crying, doing drugs, having crazy, wild sex, humping teddy-bears, and basically seeming like she’s about to crack open at any second.
And yet, it’s not enough to fully help I Smile Back from being what is, basically, just another Lifetime movie, but with more nudity, more cursing, and most importantly, more sex.
This isn’t to discredit Silverman herself as she portrays what it’s like for a woman, who clearly has manic depression, in the most honest, raw way she can possibly do without sinking herself almost too far into such a role. Laney herself seems like the kind of woman who, at one point in her life, may have been a sweet and endearing gal, but now, seems as if she doesn’t understand much about life, its pleasures, or what exactly she’s supposed to do with it. That’s why, watching Silverman go from scene to scene, making it seem as if Laney herself is lost in some sort maze she can’t get find the nearest exit out of, is relatively hard and, at times, disturbing.
But that’s mostly because Silverman is a good actress. The rest of the movie, I’m afraid, isn’t nearly as up-to-par as she is, or smart, especially because it never really draws much more about her character, other than that she’s a pissed-off housewife who’s got a lot of problems in her life. Sure, there’s no problem with highlighting that aspect of a character’s life, regardless of how depressing it may be, but the movie doesn’t really give us any more context other than that.
Also, as good as Silverman is at creating this Laney character, we still don’t understand much about her to begin with, or how she was before she started feeling as depressed as she currently is. We get a certain idea through her troubled relationship with her estranged father, but it’s so late in the game and so tiny, that it almost doesn’t register. So instead, we’re left to watch as this character, one we don’t know from Adam, do all sorts of troubling, downright terrible things to herself, as well as those that surround her life.
Once again, there’s nothing wrong with having these kinds of stories, about these kinds of complicated figures, but there has to be more behind all of the events. To just place someone in this role and leave it at that, without any added-on info or anything, just doesn’t quite work. There’s one scene between Josh Charles’ husband character and Laney that’s supposed to give us at least some background info on how the two met and got together, but like it was with the father character, it’s too little, too late, in a film that’s already just relying way too heavily on Silverman herself to pick up the pieces.
Which she does, but it’s really obvious what’s going on here.
But if anything that surprised me about I Smile Back, in an at least somewhat positive way, was that it had an ending that, believe it or not, is way different than from what you’d get from a Lifetime movie. For one, it’s not pretty and it sure as hell isn’t the feel-good, happy ending some may expect, like I myself did. However, it also brings up the smart idea about people’s life stories and how, in most cases, not everything it tied-up in a neat little bow. Sure, certain movies may have you think that, but in reality, that’s not the case.
In fact, life can be very messy. There’s no real beginning or ends to an issue, instead, it’s always existing and controlling your everyday life whether you want to admit it or not. But what I Smile Back deals with, at its end at least, is that Laney’s life, as well as everybody else’s, will continue to live on as they were before. Some things may change, some things may not, but most of all, life will continue to be just how it is. Sometimes sad, and also, sometimes happy.
Even though the movie itself doesn’t quite work, I Smile Back at least has something to say when all is said and done.
Consensus: Despite Silverman’s raw, challenging performance, I Smile Back doesn’t seem to really have much to say about any of its upsetting material, even if it does end on a solid, if surprising, note.
5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire