Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Fire in the White Bread

Well, I'd like my final film review in 2015 to be for a good movie but I'm afraid I'm going to have to go ant-climactic here with the rather banal I Smile Back. Glancing at Rotten Tomatoes I see I'm far from alone in regarding this as a remarkable performance from Sarah Silverman in a rigorously unremarkable film.

She plays Laney, a very normal young mother who happens to be addicted to cocaine. Her husband, Bruce (Josh Charles), has apparently made a considerable fortune in his profession selling life insurance because they live with their two children in a massive town home in New York.

For the most part, the movie doesn't do anything wrong, following the dots on stereotypical aspects of addict behaviour--Laney's father abandoned her as a child leaving her with a lifelong feeling that everything she loves will go away and so she's afraid to love. She deals with her inability to indulge in feelings by medicating herself with the coke. She goes to rehab after an embarrassing episode where she collapsed on the bedroom floor, she tantrums a little once there, but she goes through the programme and eventually comes out.

It's all pretty standard stuff but Silverman is very good. It reminds me of some of Bill Murray's less remarkable films where the writing might not be great but he has a sort of smart sparkle that stands above everything. So when Laney's at a dinner party and can't resist making a snide comment about a rich old man's trophy wife, we're with her in chafing at the hypocrisy at the table despite the fact that it's a broadly stereotypical situation.

The last act of the film is pretty dull, run of the mill addict melodrama, including a rather unlikely scene where Laney's drug habit is discovered. But Silverman's performance is so anachronistically raw it holds the viewer's attention and makes one a little more willing to go along with an extraordinarily lazy screenplay.

I remember reading how Kevin Smith originally wanted to cast Silverman as the girlfriend in Clerks II but she turned it down because she didn't want to play The Girlfriend. She said if she'd been offered the role of Randal she'd have taken it. She clearly likes a role that makes demands on her. Hopefully she finds a film that matches her boldness.

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