Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

I Smile Back


Sarah Silverman is one of the funniest people on Planet Earth. I don’t know what planet she calls home, but when she visits us she graces us with her extremely weird brand of humor. Now she has decided to branch out into serious drama, and for her debut she has picked one of the most depressing scripts of the year.

Laney is outwardly doing pretty well, with a huge upper-middle-class house, two lovely children, and a husband who loves her. But she has stopped taking her lithium, and instead pops pills, snorts coke, and drinks a lot. Her behavior is becoming erratic. There is a truly horrible scene where she masturbates with her little daughter’s teddy bear. She goes to rehab, comes out, seems to be trying. But I didn’t expect a happy ending, and I didn’t get one.

She has daddy issues because her father abandoned his family when she was nine. She is afraid of the future, of all the horrible possibilities. She degrades herself from the very first scene where she is face down on the bed while her adulterous lover fucks her in the ass. (I’m being deliberately crude.) Near the end she picks an anonymous redneck in a bar and goads him into beating the shit out of her. Lee remarked “She sure knows how to pick them.” And that is exactly right. She picked the perfect person to hurt her, which is what she wanted.

The story isn’t all that unusual, really, but what makes it stand out is Silverman’s fearless, way-out-there performance. She totally owns this picture, even though the supporting cast are all good as well. Her expressive face, so useful in showing emotion in her stand-up routines, really serves her well. She just has this role down, perfectly. She was nominated for a SAG Best Actress award. She lost (to Brie Larson in Room), which was right, but I’d put her in second place, over Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren. And those two are as good as it gets.