For Reel

I Smile Back (2015)
November 17, 2015, 8:19 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Adam Salky
2.5 Stars
I Smile BackSarah Silverman’s comedy is mined from the outrageous. While she shows gifts as a storyteller in both her specials and on podcasts, she’s not shy to blurt out a string of shocking vulgarities for the immediate laugh. She’s an easy fit to be the latest comedian to take a dramatic turn–the contrast of her aggressive sense of humor and her squeaky clean image suggests the potential to convey a slew of similarly-minded contradictions. In this addiction drama dealing with suburban ennui, however, the filmmakers aren’t quite up to the task of supporting her devastating turn. Adapted from Amy Koppelman’s novel by Koppelman and Paige Dylan, the screenplay struggles to contextualize Laney’s (Silverman) specific history with addiction and the root of her malaise. While this type of concealment and ambiguity is undoubtedly a necessary quality in a compelling character portrait, I Smile Back simply encourages audiences to fill in the blanks based on prior knowledge of every other suburban weepy they’ve encountered. The scenes involving Laney feeding her sexual and substance addictions feel strangely unjustified rather than a convincing outlet for her depression. Even as Silverman successfully conveys a range of weaknesses and aggressions, the storytelling stumbles, leaving one either perplexed or feeling a similar sense of lethargy that Laney suffers from.

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