I Smile Back

Movies, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
I Smile Back

A fearless performance by Sarah Silverman redeems a difficult watch.

Completely redefining her public persona (and hopefully breaking her into a higher echelon of roles), Sarah Silverman trades scabrous one-liners for a whole-body plunge into a housewife’s devastating drug addictions. Not your everyday lunge for artistic seriousness, Silverman’s Laney is a performance of muted shades: We watch the furtive gulps of wine and raiding of secret stashes of coke and pills, and sense that this is a woman long used to hiding in plain sight. Just as rivetingly, Laney throws exquisite side-eye at her husband, Bruce (Josh Charles), a slightly fatuous insurance salesman, suggesting a deeper existential reaction to her suburban stultification, which she knocks back with infidelity, angry snits and yawning neediness.

Based on Amy Koppelman’s 2008 novel, I Smile Back can’t shake its slightly tired structural similarities to other drug dramas, and there’s an obvious imbalance between Silverman’s mighty commitment and the movie around her. Laney is a black hole; it would have been interesting to let a beam or two of light escape, so we could better appreciate her harrowing collapse. But there’s unusually fine attention paid to her anxious kids, suggesting a cycle that won’t end with one person.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday October 23 2015
Duration: 85 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Adam Salky
Screenwriter: Paige Dylan, Amy Koppelman
Cast: Sarah Silverman
Josh Charles
Skylar Gaertner

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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1 person listening

Sarah Silverman proves herself as a nuanced, multi-layered performer capable of holding her own in this unflinching portrayal of a woman undone, as the definition of an anti-hero protagonist. Both harrowing and true-to-life, the film leaves the viewer shaken and contemplative, but ultimately potentially unfulfilled.