Written by James Ponsoldt and Susan Berke
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul and Octavia Spencer
Jenny: It’s hard to live your life with honesty, y’know.
As I write this review, I am very slowly nursing a rather large cup of coffee, trying to figure out where I’m going to find the energy to get dressed at some point and squinting to see the words I am typing on the screen. The result is always the same and you would think that after so many years, I would know better. Yet, here I am, again. I had too much to drink last night and everything today is going to be that much more difficult for it. Still, I think it could be worse. I could have woken up in a pool of my own urine and be drinking again by the time I get in the shower today. Heck, I could even drink straight from the bottle while I’m actually in the shower! While I am very fortunate that this is not my life, this is just another day in the life of Kate Hannah, a wife and elementary school teacher whose life is all about getting SMASHED, which, incidentally, is also the title of one this year’s greatest surprises in film.
Getting smashed is a fantastic way to put your troubles way the hell out of your mind but there comes a point in time when you realize that doing it as much as you do, may actually be causing all of your life troubles. Such is the realization Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has one day when she throws up in class and, rather then tell her grade one class that she just isn’t feeling well, she lies and tells them that she is in fact pregnant instead. This of course upsets her because, let’s be honest, how on earth is she going to get out of this one, and her natural inclination when things go sour is to drink. Her husband (Aaron Paul) is no help either, as their favorite thing to do together is get stinking drunk. And I’m talking biking in the middle of the street and peeing right in the middle on a convenience store, drunk. So, when Kate decides it is time to get sober, their marriage is put to its biggest test.
SMASHED shouldn’t work theoretically. Winstead is an unproven lead and the supporting cast is made up of sitcom actors (real life husband and wife, Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally), to say nothing of the serious subject matter that is given a decidedly lighter tone. Still, it does work and well at that. This is due first in great part to Winstead herself. She manages to make a fairly unlikable character sympathetic and strong. As she sobers up, it is like she can see her life clearer and clearer with every passing day. She doesn’t like what she sees, nor does she like the decisions she knows she has to make in order to successfully remain sober, but she does them all the same. Each step she takes, some less heavy then others of course, we are right there by her side, thanks to the delicate and respectful direction of James Ponsoldt. Under him, all the elements come together, some comedic and some brutally honest, to create an intimate and revealing look at how a life is put back together after it has been smashed to pieces.