Sarah Silverman is someone who has proved over and over again that she thrives on risk. Her stand-up challenges its audience while also making it laugh. Her starring turn in I SMILE BACK, based on the Amy Koppelman novel of the same name, will also challenge its audience. In a performance that is raw, visceral, and vulnerable, Silverman plays Laney, a suburban wife and mother with some very, very dark demons that won’t allow her to enjoy the husband and children whom she adores, and who adore her in turn. Abandonment issues and a chemical imbalance plague Laney, and lead her to addictions of several varieties, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that nothing, not even the unconditional love from her husband, can conquer. Silverman gives a performance as heartbreakingly nuanced for what it reveals about Laney’s pain, as it is emotionally raw and utterly fearless in depicting her self-destructive choices.
When I spoke with her on October 9, 2015, I was most curious about how she, a performer who depends on words for her comedy, felt about a role that has so few for her to say. Not that she needs them. When her character finally permits herself a real smile, it speaks more profoundly, and more clearly, than mere dialogue could catch. I asked her about that, too.
The film co-stars Josh Charles, Chris Sarandon, Thomas Sadowsky, Terry Kinney, Shayne Coleman, and Skylar Gaertner. It was directed by Paige Dylan from a script co-written with Amy Koppelman, on whose book of the same name it was based. In addition to a stellar career in stand-up, Silverman’s previous work includes winning an Emmy for television’s “The Sarah Silverman Program,” as well as the films SCHOOL OF ROCK and WRECK-IT RALPH, plus she is the author of The Bedwetter, which led to her landing the role of Laney in I SMILE BACK.