While Smashed might feel inconsequential when put next to The Lost Weekend, Days Of Wine And Roses or Leaving Las Vegas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing) turns in a terrific performance as the titular recovering alcoholic.
Winstead plays Kate, a first grade teacher who likes to drink too much with her journo husband Charlie (Breaking Bad's Paul). Badly hungover in class one morning, Kate vomits which leads to the kids asking questions about a possible pregnancy. Seeing as that's better than admitting she’s an alcoholic, Kate rolls with it and suddenly the school is congratulating her on her news. However, when she smokes crack and wakes up on a smell mattress somewhere downtown, Kate joins AA. The move doesn’t go over with her party hard hubby.
The film can be story-by-numbers - we all know that Kate will fall off the wagon come the end of the second act and her soberness will come up against his beer-swigging - and doesn’t have anything to bring to the table that its predecessors already didn't. Smashed can be accused of coasting, of not doing enough.
However, the script diverts attention from its inevitability into the ins and outs of the marriage, the movie’s beating heart, and it’s here where Smashed is at its strongest. Winstead and Paul feel like a married couple who are over the honeymoon period and avoiding the elephant in the room; that their entire love affair is based on being intoxicated. Director Ponslodt, wielding a handheld camera, drops us right in the middle of the ensuing arguments and all their awkward intensity.
Winstead never sinks to the levels that Ray Milland, Nicholas Cage, Liz Taylor, Lee Remick, Matt Dillon or even Meg Ryan did when struggling with their addictions in their respective movies, but her Kate is different to those, trying to nip it in the bud before she reaches that state. Winstead doesn’t allow herself to wallow in the cliched on-screen drunk nature we're usually dealt; she’s lucid and hyper rather than sprawled and incoherent.
The subplot relationship disintegration is far more interesting than the road to main plot redemption but Winstead and Paul cut believable figures.