“I Smile Back”

“I Smile Back”
Adam Salky

SarahSilvermanJoshCharlesSmileBackOkay, okay. I take it all back. I have been furious with the SAG Awards Nominating Committee for some of the “lazier” choices put forward for us SAG members to vote on. In addition, there were a couple out-of-left field choices…people who weren’t nominated anywhere else. Well, I take it back, because one such surprise nominee was Sarah Silverman in Salky’s “I Smile Back” – and she is sensational. This is not a comedy, for those of you who only know Ms. Silverman as the blue comic. Hell, it’s not even uplifting. It’s simply a slice of life drama about one of the thousands of suburbanite woman who have “everything” and, yet, are clinically miserable.

Salky has used a very fine brush to illustrate the effects of depression, shame, and addiction. As a mental heath provider myself, I could vouch for pretty much every word. Most importantly, he doesn’t make the same mistake perpetrated by filmmakers who want to show us unnoticeable mental health issues – which is to make the underlying problem a single thing…addiction, family and generational struggles, chemical depression, self loathing, etc. I assure you it’s never one thing…ever. It’s all of them. And the awareness of that, by Salky and writers Amy Koppelman and Paige Dylam, makes this eminently watchable, and never melodramatic. Plus it has the added bonus of lasting less than ninety minutes…which goes by very quickly. And given the subject matter, I’m grateful for the well-pared script.

As for the acting, the supporting cast is very strong. Josh Charles’ reactions to his own emotions are never pushed and seem quite honest. Thomas Sadoski has made a living playing oddly disgusting characters with three-dimensions, as he does here. But Silverman…wow…this is a stunning and bravura performance. Each shift, every step, is complete, and believable, leading to a stunning finale. I never thought I’d say this, but she may get my SAG vote.

Zack Ryan’s synth/caliope score fits the picture perfectly. Although, it’s not a score I would recommend you listen to on its own , there’s enough Ambient-era Eno-isms in it to make it a worthwhile accompaniment for writing or driving stretches.

If you can get past the whole, “this woman’s life is perfect, what the hell does she have to complain about” feelings that might spring up early on, this very sad and affecting film is well worth its short running time.

 

(Warning: NFSW trailer – also gives away more plot than I think necessary)

Written 1/15/2016

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