Review Round-Up: I Smile Back

Here's a dirty little secret that today's society of helicopter moms and perfect Pinterest parents don't want you to know: having a great house, a caring spouse, and beautiful children doesn't make you immune to addiction and mental illness.

 

 

Don't let that string of pearls fool you: June can hoover through a pile of coke like a Dyson. 

 

In fact, I can't think of a more awkward situation than showing Sarah Silverman's latest film, I Smile Back, at a weeknight PTA meeting. Engaged and concerned parents aren't supposed to be unhappy and certainly aren't supposed to be having illicit affairs and problems with substance abuse, but as mom-and-wife-on-the-edge Laney, Sarah Silverman gets the chance to shed her comic skin and explore the darker side of the human experience. 

 

I Smile Back screened at Sundance back in January, as well as at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month. It's slated for wide release in the US on October 23rd, after which date the suburban school bus stop banter is going to get a heap more interesting…provided audiences have the stomach to admit that even affluent parents can struggle messily through life and still be considered redeemable. 

 

Let's take a look at what the critics are saying about I Smile Back:

 

"I Smile Back spends most of its 85 minutes working through the paces of every movie about an addict you’ve ever seen, but it has a secret weapon: Sarah Silverman. The comedian delivers a vulnerable, raw performance in a demanding role, and joins the ranks of stand-ups capable of tapping into an affecting darkness in the right context. As Laney, Silverman transgresses against all manner of stereotypes about the affluent suburban mother in order to illustrate just how many layers those with deep-seated problems have. There’s an enormous depth to Laney, and the film’s largely rote setup suggests that it’s Silverman who gives I Smile Back its real power.

 

"The film goes through its paces…but it excels when it steps back and simply observes Laney, in all her arch hilarity and pain and cruelty alike. It’s unclear whether or not her genuine desire to make good will overrule her self-destructive instincts, but Laney is trying. She truly is, and sometimes that’s all any of us can do." — Dominick Suzanne-Mayer, Consequence of Sound

 

"A wife and mother with a seemingly great life slowly succumbs to her addictions in I Smile Back, a drama that doesn’t dig deep enough into its protagonist’s turmoil. Occasionally affecting in its small moments, the follow-up feature from Dare director Adam Salky suffers from an indie-ish blandness, a barebones performance from comedienne Sarah Silverman not enough to shake the impression that this character’s problems are underdeveloped and, consequently, not overly sympathetic." — Tim Grierson, Screendaily.com

 

"A gutsy performance by Sarah Silverman — annihilating almost every trace of her comedy persona as her character spirals through one punishing bout of depression, addiction and self-sabotage after another, multiple times redefining rock-bottom — is the chief distinction of Adam Salky's I Smile Back. Despite a number of trenchant scenes and some startling depictions of sexual degradation, the film has little that's particularly original or enlightening to say about living with a chemical, genetic or emotional imbalance, making its primary function as a showcase for the lead actress to stretch her range." — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

 


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