I've said it before and I'll say it again, I do not care for these vapid dissatisfied housewife portrayals in Hollywood films. I don't know if it's that too many are helmed by male directors who fail to see the depth of housewife characters outside the fact that they are married and unhappy. They don't bother to delve into why their unhappy and or offer the audience a deeper sense of their humanity.
And that problem is repeated in I SMILE BACK, the new drama directed by Adam Salky and starring Sarah Silverman. While Silverman impresses as Laney, a mother of two spiraling down a slippery slope of drugs, extramarital sex and emotional instability, her character is so poorly developed that you never fully understand her. We learn that she is suffering from emotional instability possibly triggered by her father's distance from her life (which is also never really explained). Every aspect of her character is just so thinly drawn that it's a frustrating watch. We want to sympathize with her, but it's hard to do so when we see her practically ask for sex at a seedy bar, abandoning her husband (Josh Charles) while they're out of town together, snorting coke in her bathroom while her children are just steps away, and wallowing in a general distaste for life. This disconnect is purely on account of the filmmaker and screenwriter's (Paige Dylan and Amy Koppelman) lack of understanding (or empathy?) of Laney, which is hugely problematic when drawing a character like this.
So, it makes it hard to like this film. I actually question whether we're even supposed to like it. I am pleasantly surprised by Silverman's dramatic turn here (and even Charles is solid despite playing a thankless role), but there just isn't much to grab on to here. And the ending is one of those conclusions of a film that you see coming a few minutes before it does yet you pray it actually doesn't end that way because you know you'd feel like throwing your shoe at the screen. One of those.
All that said, though, I am interested to see what kind of choices Silverman will make next.
I SMILE BACK opens October 23 in theaters and On Demand.
Watch the trailer: