Sunday, April 24, 2016

Film Review: I Smile Back (2015)

Broad Green Pictures
There’s plenty of terrible mental and emotional spaces in the I Smile Back movie. As an exploration of a well-meaning but critically damaged woman, who is played by Sarah Silverman, it goes deep into territory that will make people feel uncomfortable, even though 

I doubt this was the intended purpose of its makers. Its director, Adam Salky, decided to place its plot in a perfect household, where Laney and Bruce, a young and successful couple have two perfect children and live in a beautiful house.

In that environment, however, the main character of Laney feels an endless torrent of negative emotions and thoughts which push her into alcoholism, drug use, and promiscuity. At one point, the situation begins to deteriorate and she starts to lose control, which triggers an onset of fear about the prospect of losing her family. 

Salky boldly dissects the suburban world that Laney inhabits, but does not try to present it as a nicely decorated emotional hell, like Sam Mendes did in the American Beauty. Instead, it is Laney herself who constructs the hell on her own, knowing that her behavior leads to a dark place, but still has no way to stop it. From a psychology perspective, the film is a stellar success and builds up Laney as a very coherent character when all of their past and present is gradually revealed. To do this, Salky uses her own actions, but also subtle hints, stories told by other characters and many more inventive storytelling techniques. All of them combine in a collage that presents a person who has all but still feels as if she has nothing. 

With its short runtime of 85 minutes, Salky does all that he intended to do and does not waste even a minute. But, it is Sarah Silverman who makes Laney into a real person. Her character is reliable and somehow right there, living in it all without any false dramatization or overacting. It’s obvious that Silverman’s talent for dramatic roles has been perfectly hidden until now.

Finally, it is the decision of Salky not to provide any possible solution to Laney’s conundrum which makes the film a great work of art. It would have been easier to wrap up I Smile Back in some predictable fashion, but instead, Salky does something a lot more visceral and powerful.


No comments:

Post a Comment