Sarah Silverman and Josh Charles star in “I Smile Back,” a drama about an out-of-control wife and mother. (Courtesy Broad Green Pictures)

Sarah Silverman impressive in depressing ‘I Smile Back’

Sarah Silverman shows a dark side — that isn’t funny — in the new movie “I Smile Back.”

“I wouldn’t say it was a barrel of laughs,” says the performer best known for her raunchy comedy, describing the process of making the admittedly depressing movie.

“It’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea,” says Silverman, adding that she was “so glad” she didn’t know at the outset just how tough it would be to play the part of Laney, a suburban wife and mother derailed by depression and addiction.

Recently in town to talk about the movie, she smiles and seems surprised to be complimented on her dramatic performance, which has received early rave reviews, particularly at its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

She has seen it twice. At first, she felt self-critical. (“It’s hard to be objective,” she says.) The second time, it felt “nostalgic.” She says she really loved the music, and how it doesn’t tell viewers what to feel.

Silverman came to the project after co-screenwriter Amy Koppelman (who based the movie on her 2008 novel of the same name) heard the comedian on the radio, talking about her own depression (covered in her memoir “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee”), and connected.

“Comedians tend to have a dark side; they become comics as a survival skill,” says Silverman, who didn’t find the task of doing drama entirely out of her realm: “It has a different set of muscles,” she says.

For Silverman, there was little chance she’d do anything but comedy with her career. Her potty mouth, at age 3, she says, drew “wild approval from dad,” who thought it was hilarious, taught her obscenities and encouraged her to use them. “I would look for ways to shock grownups,” she says.

These days, she enjoys the freedom of choosing projects she wants to work on. She says: “I keep my overhead low, so I could live my life. I’m able to do to what I want. I own an apartment and a car.”

Although she loves New York (“It fills my heart”), she lives in Los Angeles and likes driving “OK.” She says, “I love being alone. Driving is like sitting on a couch with wheels.”

IF YOU GO
I Smile Back
Starring: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles
Written by: Amy Koppelman, Paige Dylan
Directed by: Adam Salky
Rated R
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

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