Sarah Silverman Discovers Her Dark Side
Someone’s been trying to break into Sarah Silverman’s apartment.
Don’t worry, they were unsuccessful. But the attempted burglaries did prompt the actor to install a security camera outside her front door—which in turn led to Silverman doing what fans of her particular brand of sweet-voiced, foulmouthed comedy have been doing for almost 20 years now: laugh at her onscreen.
“Every once in a while I’ll look at myself coming home, and [in one video] I reached for my key and everything in my bag fell out. And I laughed at myself ’cause I’m an idiot, but it was so interesting to watch.
“To see yourself in real life—to have just a real-life moment—is neat to study.” She was animated, she says, “and in acting, if I did that, I’d think, That’s over the top.”
Silverman has long embraced living and acting truthfully in the moment. Her no-holds-barred attitude has been with her from her early days on “Saturday Night Live” to “The Sarah Silverman Program” to her standup specials, in which she jokes about sexism, racism, politics, religion, and everything else not suited for the dinner table. “I was raped by a doctor,” she jokes in 2005’s “Jesus Is Magic.” “Which, you know…is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.”
But in the new film “I Smile Back,” out Oct. 23, the comedian is testing that attitude in a different way. Silverman stars as Laney Brooks, a suburban wife and mother whose drinking, drugging, and fondness for anonymous sex destroys her family.
Laney snorts cocaine in the bathroom while her kids call for her from the other side of the door, mixes various pills with alcohol before calling another mother from school, and steals drugs off a family friend (Thomas Sadoski) with whom she’s having an affair. And that’s just the beginning.
“There’s a part of me that can understand wild self-destruction and the odd freedom that that is. I go back and forth with how I feel about her. [I have] compassion and empathy, but also, fuck you. Get your shit together. Other people exist,” Silverman says.
“You can be wildly empathetic toward her and her struggle, but you can also go, ‘What a self-centered person,’ ” she adds. “And so that’s what art is to me: People will see different things depending on their own life experiences.”
Directed by Adam Salky, the film marks a stark transition for the Emmy winner, who, despite having done her share of drama (2012’s “Take This Waltz” and Showtime series “Masters of Sex”), has spent the last two decades primarily in comedy.
Pair that with such complex subject matter, and nothing could prepare Silverman completely for “I Smile Back”—even if the movie was written for her.
The screenplay was created by Amy Koppelman, who penned the 2008 novel. After hearing Silverman speaking about depression with Howard Stern and feeling like she could hear so much of Laney in the actor, she decided to adapt the story for the silver screen. Silverman took the news in stride.