SMASHED is about Kate (Winstead) and Charlie (Paul), a married couple with a mutual love of alcohol. They live a boozy, care-free life, drinking at their local bar any chance they get. They’re a match made in heaven, so what could go wrong? Kate starts waking up in random places and throwing up at work. Clearly, everything can go wrong…
I have to say that the title Smashed gives off the wrong signals. It’s a really poor name for such an emotionally-charged film, with a comic, light touch. This is not some sensationalist, trashy story about alcoholism, but a sensitive take on the subject of addiction.
It’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead who deserves most of the credit for making this movie so good. I saw her in 10 Cloverfield Lane and thought she was fantastic, but here she’s gob-smackingly brilliant. She delivers some of the most powerful, realistic acting I’ve seen from an indie drama.
The story is shown through her character’s eyes, as Kate comes to realise that her excessive drinking is wrecking her life. She makes the decision to get sober and so starts going to AA meetings. But, she finds it tough to stay on the waggon, especially since Charlie is always drunk.
The film itself isn’t a preachy message to the viewer. Everyone knows that addiction is bad, so the film skirts away from being condescending. I also liked the fact that Kate isn’t defined by her addiction. It’s something she’s dealing with alongside all the other everyday problems in her life. She doesn’t seem like the type to even have a drinking problem, which makes her seem much more real.
And Aaron Paul, whose character is very one-dimensional, makes Charlie sympathetic and compelling. But he’s not explored anywhere near as much as Kate.
The best thing about Smashed is that everything is kept at a low key level, and never becomes over-dramatised. Also, the film is engaging right from the start, grabbing you through the likeable leads and additional characters, like Jenny (Spencer), who helps Kate with her recovery.
I know films about addiction aren’t on the top of everyone’s watch-list, but Smashed deserves to be seen by more people. After you see it, it actually feels like you’ve done something really productive, like you’ve gone on a journey with these characters. In the end, I highly recommend it!
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: Susan Burke, James Ponsoldt
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Octavia Spencer
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Run Time: 81 minutes