How would you feel if you wanted to get better and overcome alcoholism, but everyone around you, including your family, didn’t support you?
Newlyweds Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie Hannah (Aaron Paul) share a love of music, partying and drinking, with an emphasis on the drinking. The two lovers go out every night, party with their buds, sing karaoke and get “smashed.” Kate is an elementary school teacher, while Charlie is a struggling writer who “works” at home.
At first glance, it seems that the two just enjoy having a good time and a few drinks makes it all the more fun. But its when Kate pulls into her school’s parking lot, takes out a small flask of whiskey, and chugs it before walking into the building, that we realize she has a problem.
While she is in her classroom, clearly hungover from the night before, Kate ends up throwing up in front of her students. When one little girl says, “Mrs. Hannah, are you pregnant?,” Kate panics and says yes. This is the start of a whirlwind of lies that Kate tells in attempt to hide that she is an alcoholic.
Kate falls so downhill from drinking, that one night she drunkenly gives a random girl a ride home, only to end up hanging out on the streets with the homeless, smoking crack. Even when she returns home early the next morning, her husband fails to say anything about her wreck-less behavior, since he is hungover, too.
Kate eventually realizes that she can’t live her life like this and that needs help. She seeks a friend and fellow school teacher, Mr. Davies (Nick Offerman), a recovered drug addict, who takes her to her first AA meeting. At the meeting she meets Jenny (Octavia Spencer), who eventually becomes Kate’s sponsor.
In most cases, it’s the alcoholism that can tear a couple apart, but with Kate and Charlie, it’s her sobriety that eventually frustrates him. This couple was built on partying and drinking, so when Kate stopped, Charlie declared his hatred for AA, saying it’s turned her into a completely different person.
Winstead plays the role of the young alcoholic with both despair and grace. There are times where she is despicable, yet we still root for her to pull through and become sober. Winstead delivers the best performance of her career and proves she can step away from her typical genre roles (“Scott Pilgrim vs. World” and “The Thing”). It should also be noted that Winstead gives one of the best performances of the year, period. The young actress completely looses herself in the role and leads the emotionally charged film from start to finish.
What makes “Smashed” unique over other films like it is director and co-screenwriter James Ponsoldt. He uses several handheld camera techniques to make the audience feel like we are going through this journey with Kate and that we are right next to her. The dialogue feels real and we understand the characters so much more because of it.
“Smashed” is a wonderful and colorful portrait of a woman going through the struggles of becoming sober and pulling her life back together. The film is a powerful showcase for Winstead and the actress proves she can tackle serious, emotionally-driven roles.