Movie review of “I Smile Back”: The film is an actress’ showcase, with Sarah Silverman playing a woman with a picture-perfect life — and severe behavior problems. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Portrait of a woman going off the rails — a portrait painted in pastels.
In “I Smile Back,” the woman, Laney Brooks (Sarah Silverman), is a wife and mother living in an immaculate Northeast suburb. Her husband (Josh Charles) is attentive and loving. Her two young kids (Skylar Gaertner and Shayne Coleman) are sweet-natured and cute as buttons. Their home looks like a centerpiece from House Beautiful magazine. Laney’s life, it would appear, is perfect.
Appearances can be deceiving.
Movie Review ★★½
‘I Smile Back,’ with Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Thomas Sadoski, Terry Kinney. Directed by Adam Salky, from a screenplay by Paige Dylan and Amy Koppelman. 85 minutes. Rated R for strong sexual content, substance abuse, disturbing behavior and language. Varsity.
While her husband and kids are shooting hoops out in the yard, Laney is doing lines of cocaine in the bathroom. When no one is around, she’s gulping vodka from a bottle hidden in the kitchen.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- Seattle Walk Report creator returns with ‘Secret Seattle,’ a guide to Seattle’s living history
- Books feed the soul. Here’s what restaurateur Mark Canlis is reading
- Garth Brooks' Stadium Tour is coming to Seattle's Lumen Field
- 'Stillwater' review: Well-acted Matt Damon drama, patterned after the Amanda Knox case, implodes
- Olympic broadcasters curb sexual images of female athletes
Based on a novel by Amy Koppelman (she shares screenplay credit with Paige Dylan) and directed by Adam Salky, “I Smile Back” is at pains to make the case that bad things can happen to good people when those good people are afflicted with severe behavioral problems. Alcoholic, drug addicted and sexually reckless (there’s that, too), Laney is the picture’s case in point.
“Smile” is an actress’ showcase, with Silverman giving a performance far removed from her familiar comedic persona. She’s very persuasive as a woman desperately in love with her kids — emphasis on the desperate part. The character knows her behavior threatens everything she holds most dear, but she’s helpless to stop her destructive slide.
The cheery visuals (soothing pastel yellow is the preferred wall color in this house beautiful), so at odds with the darkness of Laney’s situation, are obviously meant to highlight the trouble-in-paradise theme. But as moviegoers, we’re conditioned to expect visual cues that reinforce bleak subject matter, and so “Smile’s” brightness has the paradoxical effect of diluting the message.
Silverman’s performance, while good, is by no means great, and she is not able to transcend what amounts to a little too much sweetness and light in this cinematic “Smile.”