I Smile Back

Critics Consensus

I Smile Back serves as a powerful showcase for Sarah Silverman's dramatic range, but fails to surround her committed performance with a movie worthy of its depth.



Total Count: 70


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,930
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Laney is an attractive, intelligent suburban wife and devoted mother of two adorable children. She has the perfect husband who plays basketball with the kids in the driveway, a pristine house, and a shiny SUV for carting the children to their next activity. However, just beneath the façade lie depression and disillusionment that send her careening into a secret world of reckless compulsion. Only very real danger will force her to face the painful root of her destructiveness and its crumbling effect on those she loves. -- (C) Broad Green Pictures

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Sarah Silverman
as Laney Brooks
Josh Charles
as Bruce Brooks
Skylar Gaertner
as Eli Brooks
Shayne Coleman
as Janey Brooks
Terry Kinney
as Dr. Page
Sean Reda
as Henry
Cynthia Darlow
as Mrs. Kosinski
Kristin Griffith
as Nurse Pauline
Clark Jackson
as Mr. Odesky
Brian Koppelman
as David Blackman
Emma Ishta
as Katrina
Michael Sharits
as Bartender
Mia Katigbak
as Mrs. Mattingly
Gregory Dann
as Quaker State
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Critic Reviews for I Smile Back

All Critics (70) | Top Critics (27)

  • Silverman delivers a knockout performance - any memories of her scatalogical stand-up act are washed away in an instant. But her intense commitment to the depths of depression belongs in a better, more focused, less derivative film.

    Dec 4, 2015 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • I Smile Back isn't a candy-coated, noble depiction of addiction and the toll it takes on families, but rather a bleak yet honest look at how regular people lose themselves, and how difficult it can be to find the way back.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • I Smile Back pummels with nastiness, then moves from one shocking event to the next without a backward glance.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Silverman's performance, while good, is by no means great, and she is not able to transcend what amounts to a little too much sweetness and light in this cinematic "Smile."

    Nov 5, 2015 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Silverman is far and away the best part of "I Smile Back," a strained entry in the Mad Housewife genre.

    Nov 5, 2015 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • A tough, unbending, sometimes brutally truthful profile of one woman's addiction and the havoc it wreaks on herself and just about everyone who matters to her.

    Nov 5, 2015 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for I Smile Back

  • Oct 26, 2015
    JESUS IS TRAGIC - My Review of I SMILE BACK (2 Stars) Comedians often shine in dramatic roles, whereas the opposite is seldom true.  Perhaps it's the ability to tap into their own darkness, which can produce the best comedy, translates well when things turn serious.  The cinema has so many examples, including Jerry Lewis  (KING OF COMEDY),  Mo'Nique  (PRECIOUS), Eddie Murphy  (DREAMGIRLS),  Jim Carrey  (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND), Whoopi Goldberg  (THE COLOR PURPLE), Lily Tomlin (NASHVILLE)and probably most astonishing of all and the least seen,  Crissy Rock (LADYBIRD LADYBIRD).   Into the fray jumps Sarah Silverman in her first leading dramatic role in I SMILE BACK and the results, however game she is here, are less than stellar.  Directed by Adam Salky (DARE) and written by Paige Dylan and Amy Koppleman, who wrote the novel,  the film tells the story of Laney Brooks (Silverman), a suburban housewife struggling with addictions.  On the surface, her life is perfect: beautiful house, adoring husband, cute kids.  Underneath, however, she's falling apart, and her tightly coiled early scenes set us up for how much pain Laney is keeping to herself.  Told somewhat elliptically, the story meanders from scene to scene.  Laney snorts coke, sleeps with other men, sneaks vodka wherever possible, flaunts her entitlement whenever she drops her kids off at school, and most shocking of all, dry-humps  her child's stuffed teddy bear.  You heard me.  She's kind of the serious version of the asshole she's always playing in her comedic performances, and Silverman is trying very hard and not overdoing her performance for one second. In fact, she's very effective in many scenes, whether being physically abused, suicidal, or tipping into rage. Unfortunately, it's all in service of a barely-there script. Scene after scene, the movie flatlines when it should be building. There's a "first world problems" veneer over the whole enterprise which could easily make one think, "Get over yourself! You've got EVERYTHING!" Now, I do understand that people from all walks of life have problems, but that doesn't mean you have to make a movie about all of them. I SMILE BACK feels like a film made to get Silverman an Independent Spirit Award Nomination...and she'll probably get one. She certainly has the goods, but what a strange, disconnected, lifeless, inconsequential experience it is watching this film. There are some good ideas at play, and the ending musters up some real courage, but DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE broke the mold on this type of film, Jennifer Aniston covered similar territory last year in CAKE. I guess I SMILE BACK proves that you can be really good in a bad movie and somehow make it worth seeing...maybe.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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