Smashed (2012), directed by James Ponsoldt and starring Aaron Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This film won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival which is what intrigued me. Also, since watching him in Breaking Bad, I was curious to see Paul in another portrayal than that of Jesse Pinkman. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer also appears in a supporting role here.
Synopsis: This story centres on a married couple who have a drinking problem. When teacher Kate Hannah (Winstead) realises her drinking is getting too much, she decides to try and go sober. As a result, their relationship is put to the ultimate test.
Early on, it is quickly established that alcohol plays a big part in the main character’s lives and in their relationship. Our opening scene shows both of them awaking from a hangover after a heavy night of drinking. We see flashbacks of Kate drink driving, smoking crack, and waking up in strange locations. There is even a scene where she drinks in the morning before going to teach her class. This is when we see she needs some serious help. Kate is also on first name terms with one of the convenience store workers due to how frequently she purchases alcohol from there. Therefore, we quickly realise that Kate needs to do something about her life.
When one of her colleagues admits he has struggled with alcohol for years, he advises she attend a recovery meeting with him. This becomes an integral part in helping with her issues, and is also where she meets her sponsor Jenny (Spencer). The repercussions this has on her relationship is of interest because Charlie (Paul) chooses not to stop drinking. Therefore, Kate’s newly found sobriety makes her see things from a new light, and in turn Charlie begins to resent her too.
There are times during this movie where I genuinely cringed at what Kate was doing when she was drunk. Writers James Ponsoldt and Susan Burke did a great job in conveying the downward spiral she is on, and made me rally for her success. The root cause of her drinking seems to stem from her family life, as we learn her father was an alcoholic and her mother (whom she is not really close with) also drinks a lot. Kate also mentions that she was overweight in school, and the alcohol seemed to help with her weight loss.
Overall this is an interesting film, and is a very quick viewing at a running time of 81 minutes. The acting is good, and Winstead really stands out as the film’s main protagonist. Winstead and Paul seem to have good onscreen chemistry which also makes the performances more believable. Without trying to ram the message down the viewer’s throats, this film really does highlight the effects of alcohol and how much of an impact this can have on people’s lives.
I recommend this film.
By Robert Spence