Who knew Sarah Silverman could act? In “I Smile Back,” she does everything in her power to show everyone that she has acting chops, and it’s a showy performance, the kind that is asking – no, make that begging- for a recognition. Like “look at me, I may have started as a stand-up comic, but I can shed all my comic-ness and be a serious actress” As Laney, a New Jersey housewife struggling with addiction and depression, Silverman has created a character that does what it does, yet you wonder why she does it? I wonder if the screenplay, by Page Dylan and Amy Kopelman, had a little more depth to it, as it is based on Koppelman’s novel, because it surely does not show in this movie. Instead, we get drug porn – scenes of snorting, sniffing, and extramarital sex. Josh Charles, playing her husband, is underused, and is portrayed as borderline stupid, only reacting to Silverman.
As a movie, it’s distracting enough – I never felt bored – but it all amounts to fluff, as heavy as the subject matter. As for Silverman, I hope she learns a little bit of subtlety – you don’t have to give all your blood, sweat, and tears (literally) in every scene. A little balance goes a long way. I don’t mean to make hers sound like its a bad performance – I appreciate it, actually – but it could have been better. It could have been paced better, and with better editing, it could have been more nuanced. But it is what it is, and this will pave the way to better roles for her, and then she can show the world how good an actress she could be, instead of forcing the idea down our throats.