Greetings again from the darkness. The combination of Sarah Silverman in the lead role and the word “smile” in the title sets the stage for some shell-shocked movie goers who walk into this one expecting the side-splitting laughs this talented comedienne usually delivers. Drama seems an insufficient description for what director Adam Salky serves up, and Ms. Silverman is fully engaged with the bleak tone. It’s a Hollywood rite of passage that every comedic actor must go full bore drama before they are taken seriously as an actor. Welcome to the club, Sarah.
The opening sequence plops us right into Laney’s (Silverman) depressed state. We soon learn that she is far beyond the stereotypical disillusioned suburban housewife. She lives in a stunning McMansion with her wonderful husband Bruce (Josh Charles) and their cute kids. Unable to find joy in her life, Laney seeks answers in alcohol, pills, cocaine, and by trysting with her friend’s husband (Thomas Sadoski). We’ve seen it all before, but never by through the work of a fearless Sarah Silverman.
It’s not that we dislike Laney. It’s more that we feel helpless and somewhat disgusted watching her. We have seen the parents who put their career ahead of family, but it’s even more painful to watch such self-destructive emotional behavior. And when Laney finds release through her daughter’s teddy bear, it pushes us as viewers to accept just how near the edge she teeters.
Laney’s vacuous eyes are the obvious sign that she is simply unable to find any joy in the daily routine of family life. It’s not surprising when we learn of the childhood baggage she carries, and her attempts to confront the past provides a spark of hope for her recovery … as does the rehab stay. However, the script from Paige Dylan (wife of Jakob Dylan) and Amy Koppelman confirms that sometimes there is no redemption. The abrupt ending is both a kick in the gut and relief that our time with Laney is done … and also recognition that Sarah Silverman has arrived as a dramatic acting force.