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Laramie Movie Scope:
I Smile Back

A few smiles, but a lot more sorrow

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 20, 2016 -- This is another contender for saddest film of the year, along with “Anomalisa” and “Entertainment.” This is a tragic story of a woman struggling with bipolar disorder, drug addiction and other serious psychological problems.

Laney Brooks (played by comic and actress Sarah Silverman of “A Million Ways to Die in the West”) is a married woman with two children who is barely hanging on to her upper class suburban lifestyle. She is an alcoholic who snorts cocaine and is having an affair with a man who runs a restaurant. Somehow, she manages to just barely get by, for a little while.

She can't keep it together, of course, and goes into a rehabilitation facility. At this point in the story, I was hoping this would be more like “Good Will Hunting” and we would see Laney and the psychologist, Dr. Page (played by Terry Kinney of “Sleepers”) find a way to heal her underlying psychological problems related to her relationship to her father (played by Chris Sarandon). No such luck.

After checking out of the rehab facility, she finally gets the courage to confront her father, after not seeing him or speaking to him in years. It turns out he is neither a villain, nor a saint, just a guy who divorced Laney's mother and married another woman. Just when it looks like she might have this self-destructive, chemical dependency, depression condition licked, it turns out that she has an entirely different kind of licking in mind. There is some nudity and sex in this film.

Laney is clearly on a downward spiral at the end, but it is unclear what will happen to her. This is a very troubling film in the sense that Laney's very supportive husband, Bruce Brooks (Josh Charles of “Adult Beginners”) has finally had enough of Laney's drug use and unfaithfulness, and seems ready to cast her out. Is she beyond redemption? I don't think so. Is she basically an evil person? I don't think so. Should her family simply give up on her, disown her and let her completely self-destruct alone?

That does seem to be the way this story is headed, but that is unbearably inhumane. A woman who is a loving wife and mother should not be considered disposable. The idea that inconvenient people are disposable does seem to be the direction the whole country is moving, and that really is depressing.

Sarah Silverman gives a very convincing performance as Laney. Silverman has reportedly struggled with clinical depression and was once hooked on the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. Silverman has reportedly said she doesn't want to have biological children because they might inherit her predisposition to depression. Her character, Laney, expresses concern in the movie that her son, Eli (Skylar Gaertner of “Sleeping With Other People”) may have inherited some of her mental problems.

It would be nice if this film offered more hope for Laney, but it isn't that kind of film. It is just a slice of life, and a pretty depressing slice at that, with a disturbing beginning, a dismal end and false hope in the middle. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)