Thursday, September 17, 2015

TIFF 2015: I Smile Back

Sarah Silverman (Laney) and Josh Charles (Bruce)

I Smile Back (U.S., 2015) directed by Adam Salky, Winter Garden, 1p 85 minutes

Laney (Sarah Silverman) is a dangerously deceptive person living a seemingly idyllic life - with a kind, attractive, successful husband named Bruce (Josh Charles) and two picture perfect children whom she is completely devoted to, living in great comfort and security in an upscale New York suburb. He's in insurance but you can't have everything.

And this security and veneer of contentment appears to be part of the problem because Lainey is an addict. She is addicted to cocaine, marijuana, bennies, among other drugs and she is also addicted to dangerous situations. Whether she is having unsafe sex with violent strangers, sex with a close friend's husband, or crudely insulting her child's good friend's mother with whom she has a petty disagreement over the value of Thanksgiving.

Silverman is perfect in this role - roiling with some unexplained rage that can be, in part, tied to abandonment by her father at the age of nine. But this can't be the whole answer. Laney also has a brother who has somehow reconciled and forged a relationship with the long gone father. But not Laney. She cannot forgive him for finding a new life and the kindness with which he treats his other young daughter from his second marriage.

Whatever is tormenting Laney seems only to be assuaged by drugs, sex and/or turmoil and usually all three at once.

Although I applaud the fact that there was no easy solution to Laney's problems or a pat resolution in the film, in the end, as much as I enjoyed her performance (and I did a great deal) I was left with the thought that this film, based on the book by Amy Koppelman, brought nothing new to the genre. What are we left with - junkies are dishonest, unreliable, dangerous, unpleasant, uncontrollable? They disappoint you, cheat on you, destroy your happiness?

We need more - it's an exceptional performance by a talented woman but that alone won't suffice to make the film meaningful.

The ceiling of the Winter Garden 

Director Adam Salky

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