I Smile Back: Sarah Silverman Nails It

Adapted from Amy Koppleman’s book of the same name, by Paige Dylan and Koppleman, directed by Adam Salky and starring Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back looks at a suburban familial nightmare of mental illness and addiction.

Sarah Silverman as Laney Brooks

Adapted from Amy Koppleman’s book of the same name, by Paige Dylan and Koppleman, directed by Adam Salky and starring Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back looks at a suburban familial nightmare of mental illness and addiction. Where one partner suffers from bipolar disorder and opts to self medicate with cocaine, vodka and sex with a variety of partners and objects.  The main character, Laney Brooks, is a woman with issues. 

Brooks has deep set and disturbing mental abscesses that she fills with an affair, an over abundance of self medication and delusional ramblings. Silverman sells her version of an emotionally immature and mentally ill wife and mother of two.  Not having read the source material; Amy Koppleman won raves of approval from literary critics for her book, it is difficult to discern just where Laney’s problems begin.

It is mentioned that her father, played with a mixture of world weariness and a wounded soul by Chris Sarandon,  deserted Laney and her mother when she was a small girl. However, it is also brought up, firstly by Laney herself indirectly at a school meeting and later by her father Roger, that her grandmother had  issues as well.

I Smile Back seems to be saying that the old mot of money not buying happiness can also apply to its inability to fix mental illness.  Laney Brooks is in a relationship where her “provider” and enabler earns very good money. This allows Laney to snort cocaine and drink hidden vodka, while ignoring her prescribed medication.

Silverman’s character also has extra-marital sex, on a regular basis,  and seems to be attempting to replicate what she believes to be her father’s past behavior. Things come to a head when she overdoes her drinking and coke snorting after a family meal. After making an abusive call to another parent, she then masturbates with her daughter’s teddy bear on the floor by the bed while the child sleeps.

She goes through a meltdown and her husband sends her to detox at rehab.  Part of Laney’s problems stem from the bipolar but the rest appear to be from her lack of focus and refusal to accept culpability for her actions.

Laney “plays” at being mommy while ignoring the realities of parenthood. Later in the film, Eli (played brilliantly by Skylar Gaertner) begins exhibiting compulsive disorder symptoms at home and school.  During  a parent teacher meeting to discuss a plan of action, Laney blames the problem on her genes.

This is a moving drama filmed with emphasis on the uncomfortable “realities” of living with a loved one who suffers from mental health issues and is addicted to their own self medication.  Silverman gives this role her all and does not hesitate to show the pathos under the calm exterior of her character.

There are a few sex scenes that rely less on “in your face” techniques and more on making the act feel real. One scene features sex that turns into an assault as Laney’s world spirals out of control.

I Smile Back is evocative of  a “reality” documentary. Interactions are filmed with minimal music, focussing instead on the dialogue and the set’s ambiance.  This gives the film a “fly-on-the-wall” feel that is not too overpowering as music is used to an extent to underscore certain scenes.

Overall, this drama has equal amounts of sadness and loss. One gets the feeling that despite the love that Bruce (Josh Charles) and Laney have for one another, their relationship is doomed.  Her issues run too deep and Laney continues to deny her true feelings while refusing to take her medication. 

The ending is ambiguous; a nod to  real life where solutions are not nearly so cut and dried and innocents often suffer from their loved ones problems. Director Salky has given Silverman a chance to show that her unique brand of comedy is not the only thing that this performer has to offer.

Apart from the money not equating to happiness dictum, the film’s other message is that mental illness, or issues like bipolar or depression, is not affected by social status, success or parenthood. The root of Laney’s problem, apart from her manic depressive issue,  lies in her inability to “grow up,” she plays at being an adult with severe lapses into the emotional state of a fractured child. Nothing can “take her out of herself” long enough to fix her problems.

I Smile Back is a splendid vehicle for Silverman. It is a bit “heavy” but manages to give a human touch to all the issues faced by the Laney and her  family.  Not a film to watch if easily depressed but it is a film that should prompt discussion and not a little deep thinking. This is a 4.5 out of 5 star film and Silverman nails it as the woman who is driven to extremes by her inner demons.

Amanda Bynes Hospital Tweet to Drake She is Back

Amanda Bynes Hospital Tweet to Drake She is Back

Lost

English: Title of the tv-series LOST. Français...
English: Title of the tv-series LOST. Français : Lettres Lost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We have all lost something in our lives. Whether the thing lost is as mundane as a favourite ring or as vital as our will to live, we have all suffered the loss of something we needed.

Most people’s lives are filled with loss. As we shuffle through this mortal coil, we constantly misplace things. Some of these things are corporeal, like car keys, others are ethereal . I say ethereal  because they deal with things that are part of us. Things that are part of our very essence.

Like most folks I have lost my fair share of things, both corporeal and  ethereal. As people we lose: loved ones, prized possessions and parts of us. I have lost all these things. Some I miss. Others I have never spared a single thought on apart from the initial befuddlement at losing the item.

I am focusing on the ethereal things we lose.

I am pretty sure we all remember losing our innocence. It is generally a traumatic event, one that stays in our memory for years. The memory stays with us long after we’ve lost it. Like a sour after-taste with a slightly bitter edge to it. Some people can forget the trauma, but only in their concious mind. Subconsciously it lives on, dancing in our dreams and flitting through our day-dreams, like a noxious fairy.

Sometimes we lose our self-confidence. This can happen at the same time as the loss of innocence. These two things are not always as traumatic as each other, but both events change you. When you’ve lost both these “essences” you can still live your life. You just have to make allowances. You have to realize that the innocence can never be regained. The self confidence can with a lot of hard work and determination…and luck.

The other thing we can lose is our way. Our purpose in life.  In other words, our goal in life. We are all born with certain innate talents and skills that make us unique as a person. When we are young, it seems crystal clear to us that we should use these talents and skills to make our way forward in life. But life is a series of road-blocks and compromises. Sometimes in avoiding the road-blocks and enduring the compromises we get lost.

I can’t remember when I lost my way. I also can’t really remember when I lost confidence in my skill and talents. I do know that both occurred about the same time.

Years ago, when I still had an agent, I wound up losing him. At the time, it seemed the most devastating thing in the world. I felt that I had lost the will to live. I want to tell you friends and neighbours it was a close thing. I decided that living was the more important thing to do. I had a family and I wanted to be there for them.

My belief in myself, my self confidence, also went the way of my agent. For the first time in my life, I felt that the creative essence that made me who I was “had left the building.”

Now I am slowly finding my “lost” self confidence. I’m also discovering lost skills and talents that I thought were gone forever. All is not lost. It was just misplaced and now I am earnestly trying to find my way in life again.

So take heart, just because you’ve lost something doesn’t mean it is gone forever. You might just find it again. Unless, of course, it is the lost innocence thing. But if you find yours could you keep an eye out for mine as well.

Triggers

So Christmas has finished, in my mind at least, I’ve never celebrated the “12 days of Christmas” thing. We started taking down the decorations today. The tree is the last decoration standing at the moment. With my work schedule, it will be late in the week before we take the tree down and put the bits and bobs back up into the attic.

The funny thing is, we started talking about taking everything down two days ago! I suppose it has something to do with the total lack of Christmas spirit this year in our reduced household. Moving just before the festive season really left no room for presents or for much in the way of celebration. This I suppose was due, in part, to lack of immediate funds. But mainly, I think, it was down to triggers.


“Triggers” are things that set us off, or set us up, if you know what I mean. I was introduced to the phrase via the Mental Health Team where I work. I had always thought it was an overworked and over-relied on term that was used to explain a multitude of sins. I’ve had a change of heart.

My daughter and I were discussing these triggers the other day.

It was after an argument interestingly enough, about the laptop and my “umbilical” attachment to it. She had asked me, quite reasonably, to put the lid down for a minute while she finished telling me something. I was, as usual when I’m on the computer,  just half-listening. I was cruising the net – that’s spelt facebook and twitter – and I reacted in a remarkably bad manner. I was furious that she would dare to ask such a thing of me.

I don’t mean that I worked up to this emotion. It happened instantaneously. After apologising for my stupid behaviour things went back to normal.  Then a short while later, I said something about the state of her room. Nothing serious going on in there, just a surplus of clothing that hadn’t been put away. She blew up and pretty much tore a strip off me. Again,  apologies all around and things back to normal.

We discussed both situations later over tea. I explained that I knew where my reaction had come from. Her mother used to complain every time I got the laptop out. My daughter then realised that her reaction had stemmed from her mother’s complaining constantly about the state of her room. I then mentioned triggers and the reaction that they have on us. We both concluded that we needed to be aware of the trigger things and try to avoid reacting to them when they popped up.

I have now come to the conclusion that our “lack” of  Christmas this year – although I must add that we did do a Christmas video this year and had a lot of fun doing it – was as a result of the trigger of last years festive season. Last year was the first time we had not spent the holidays as a family unit. It was strange, uncomfortable and awkward. I honestly believe it set us up for the overall downer that was Christmas this year.

We are now looking forward to the new year and have high hopes that it will be better than the last two years. I think we have a pretty good chance of succeeding as well. We just have to look out for triggers. Everyone has things that “trigger” a response from them. These responses or reactions can be good or bad, we just have to learn to recognise why we have them and how to avoid them if they are of the bad variety.

So that is my wish for everyone in 1012. Learn what your triggers are and change how you react to them. It will help make you a calmer person in the end. It will probably be the one time in your life that it’s okay to be “trigger happy.”