I Smile Back online movie review - It's Painful To Watch. Definitely Not Everyone's Cup Of Tea
I think it might be too easy to throw a bad review at this film; The unknown director, unknown author and lead role played by someone more recognizable for her comedic value t
han her ability to act - The story itself would be pressed to find an audience to relate with it and the somber tone leaves an impression of negativity that most people don't want in their lives.
The film has been jokingly titled "White People Problems" by the internet for focusing on the oh-so-perfect suburbia world. A world without actual problems like having a roof over your head, feeding your children, education, jobs, transportation or many of the other realities just within the United States.
Hollywood loves downward spiral films that punch holes in the fabricated perfection of suburban families. In following this cliché they ignore the issues of drug addiction & mental health issues in low-income families. What I call "the real world" of dealing with the same issues, but without the benefit of wealth. One topic in 'I Smile Back' concerned health care and there are powerful stories out there with real people not having the support of family or getting the help they need. In most cases for low-income families they either get misdiagnosed through several doctors or completely written off as drug seekers.
Some wondered out-loud why Bruce would even marry such a full-blown narcissist as Laney. While others assumed that Laney "went crazy". Which is another misunderstanding about mental illness: People don't suddenly "go crazy" one day. Outside of environmental issues, there's a world of people born with severe illnesses that listen to their own family complain why they don't simply "get over it".
Mental illness is not easy to understand, nor explain. I lived in the shoes of the character Bruce Brooks (Josh Charles) for 2 decades with my own Laney. I can't explain the behavior outside of an easy label. Love & acceptance is the best way to co-exist in such a relationship; Trying to rationalize the poor choices of a bipolar/manic-depressant personality can make you feel like your losing your mind.
I noticed the poor communication between Laney & her husband, they were distant. Bruce sought to be oblivious to the bad things Laney did. I'd happen to guess Bruce was trying to maintain his own sense of normality and/or status among his peers by ignoring everything. You can see it in his face as he dropped Laney off at the rehab; He's the type that would see the problem and respond, "Why can't you just get over this?"
A lot of the explanations for Laney Brooks can be found in the diagnosis of her son Eli, played wonderfully by Skylar Gaertner. Specifically those nervous ticks found in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder created in-part to make one feel in control of the world around them. I found myself gritting my teeth when Eli's teacher Mr Odesky (Clark Jackson) suggested medication for Eli's anxiety. It bothered me more that Laney seemed accepting of the idea.
It was a painful film to watch for me. It made me angry at times, the plot devices frustrated me. I wished the film had Laney's father, Roger (Chris Sarandon) have more in common with Bruce Brooks than Laney Brooks. Not to make lite of the kind of garbage that abandons his own children, but to grant the self-absorbed Laney some form of wake up call.
All in all 'I Smile Back' is a movie that was given a lot of heart. I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate Sarah Silverman's performance in playing Laney and the direction of her character was observably interesting. I found myself still calling her Sarah throughout the movie and wonder how effective this story would have been with some unknown actors. It's an okay film. Maybe something to watch if your studying or are interested in mental disorders. Personally, I don't think I could watch it again because it stirs up some painful memories.