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Smile Review

September 30, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
SMILE Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
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Smile Review  

Directed By: Parker Finn
Written By: Parker Finn
Runtime: 115 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violent content and grisly images, and language.

Sosie Bacon – Rose Cotter
Jessie T. Usher – Trevor
Kyle Gallner – Joel
Caitlin Stasey – Laura Weaver
Kal Penn – Dr. Morgan Desai
Gillian Zinser – Holly
Robin Weigert – Dr. Morgan Northcott
Judy Reyes – Victoria Munoz
Rob Morgan – Robert Talley
Dora Kiss – Mom

An innocent woman is cursed by a malevolent supernatural force in the new horror thriller, Smile. Parker Finn makes his feature directorial debut with the film. Smile has its decent moments, but it is dull, and overly long, unfolding in an uneventful, predictable manner.

Dr. Rose Cotter (Bacon) is a New Jersey hospital psychiatrist still haunted by the trauma caused by the death of her drug-addicted mother (Kiss). The experience drove her to become a psychiatrist at a hospital rather than setting up her own private practice. Her latest patient is a college student, Laura Weaver (Stasey), who claims to be witnessing cruel beings who wear twisted, evil smiles. Laura soon experiences a distressing spell where she takes upon a frightening, crooked grin and shakes the broken shard of a flower pot across her throat while Rose can do little more than watch.

It appears that witnessing Laura’s suicide has transferred an evil entity to Rose as its latest victim. The evil force preys upon its victims, ruining their lives and driving them to a terrible fate. Laura is now the latest in a chain of traumatized victims as the grinning curse entity seeks to terrorize her and feed off her pain, suffering, and trauma. Rose’s dilemma worsens as she has nowhere to turn. Everyone around Rose believes she is mentally ill like her mother. Rose’s boss Morgan (Penn), sister Holly (Zinger), and even her fiancé Trevor (Usher) all believe she is going crazy or under a lot of stress, not believing her curse is real. The only person able to offer her assistance is her ex-boyfriend, New Jersey detective Joel (Gallner).

First of all, Sosie Bacon, the daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, delivers a strong, believable, empathetic lead performance as Rose. She is undoubtedly the best aspect and discovery of Smile. Bacon displays a strong presence and becomes the emotional anchor throughout the movie. The main problem is that the rest of the film never measures up to her performance, despite Bacon’s heavy lifting. Regardless, Bacon’s exceptional performance is worthy of merit. Hopefully, big things are in her acting future.

A horror movie with an entity that feeds off debilitating trauma is a compelling premise. The curse of Smile is an entity or being that wants to traumatize its victims, driving them to utter despair. The smile curse acts as an analogy for deeply ingrained trauma and depression. Smile does very little with its premise, as the curse incessantly preys upon Rose for nearly two hours.

Smile takes its story very seriously, which would usually be an admirable quality for a horror film — if not for how the characters often behave throughout the film. Despite being very self-serious, the characters do not tend to act normally. Rose and Trevor are not very believable as a newly engaged couple, even if Rose has a self-stated tendency to put up emotional walls. The two have no chemistry. They act more like roommates than a couple about to get married. Trevor also fades into the background and is almost non-existent for most of the film. The only other person in the narrative who behaves and acts like a genuine character is Joel.

As a first-time director, Parker Finn tends to lean on typical horror conventions and cheap jump scares. The film is not without its creepy, unsettling moments when it does not resort to cheap tropes. Some distorted, inverted camera shots act as an interesting visual externalization of the twisted view of the smile curse.

The movie becomes awfully predictable and dull once Rose realizes she is the latest victim in an unending line of traumatized victims. The movie grows utterly long and tedious. The smile curse itself even becomes a bad cliche movie villain. Smile incites a feeling of resentment in the end.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Despite a somewhat promising start Smile fails to deliver much of anything, other than a few cheap scares and typical horror cliches. For horror movie fans, that might be enough. Whenever the film is about to become interesting, it tends to lean back on and resort to cheap, predictable horror movie conventions. At the very least, Sosie Bacon displays exceptional believability in her performance. However, even with Sosie Bacon's strong performance, the movie punishes the audience for empathizing with her. So, all Smile does is create a frown.