Watch Sarah Silverman Be Soothed By Josh Charles In New Movie 'I Smile Back' — EXCLUSIVE CLIP

The comedians who break ground and elevate the art form are the ones who can put pain through a filter that suddenly makes the worst parts of life universal and funny. So though the industry likes to act surprised when a comic actor like Sarah Silverman stuns in a dramatic part like the lead role in the addiction drama I Smile Back , she's following in a tradition that includes Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, the legendary Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, and so many others. The actress, who until now has been best known for delivering jokes about her sex life with a grin and showing Guiliana Rancic her vape pen on national TV, is generating critical buzz for her work in the new movie as Laney Brooks, a young wife and mother whose mental illness manifests in behaviors that threaten her domestic happiness.

Bustle spoke to Silverman at the film's Sundance Film Festival premiere, and she commended the film for allowing a female character to be challenging and complicated. "I don't think strong women all need to be heroes," Silverman said. "It just means strong characters that aren't the girlfriend going, 'Get a life and get your act together!'" The number of lead roles for women in movies in general is still unacceptably low; the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University released a report in February stating that female protagonists were only featured in 29% of the top box office draws of 2014. Of those meaty roles that do exist, there's pressure for those characters to check the "L" word box for their roles to be palatable to a wide audience. That word is "likable," and it kills stories and neuters characters.

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Yet Oct. 23's I Smile Back, written by Paige Dylan and Amy Koppelman, resists the urge to soften Laney for the audience's benefit. It may be difficult for viewers to shore up any empathy for a woman whose inability to end her relationship with casual sex and substance abuse negatively affects her adoring husband (Josh Charles) and two beautiful children, but it's Silverman's vanity-free portrayal of Laney's mental illness that combats the assumption that women should always be happy with what the outside world perceives that they have. It was Sarah Silverman's frank discussion of her own struggle with depression on The Howard Stern Show that stoked the filmmakers interest in her taking on the role.

In this exclusive clip from I Smile Back, Bruce (Charles) is seen telling Laney a sweet story of the time he first saw her, attempting to relax her and make her smile. Evidently, it works; she looks smitten with her husband, smiling as he describes just how deeply he loves her. It's a heartbreaking scene, showing how much Bruce cares for Laney and how strong their marriage, despite Laney's depression, truly is.

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Will Sarah Silverman's powerful performance as Laney win the actress awards attention? Perhaps, but those accolades would be a secondary prize to the satisfaction of bringing a rare, balanced, and real depiction of love, marriage, and mental illness to the screen.

Image: Broad Green Pictures