Film Review: Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Emotionally Wrecked in ‘Smashed’
CHICAGO – “Young Drunks in Love” could be the subtitle of the new film “Smashed,’ or maybe “Recovery Can’t Recover All.” Regardless, Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a career-defining performance as a young adult facing up to that adulthood, and leaving behind everything she has known for a life that’s healthier, but less familiar.
It’s rare that alcoholism is tackled at this level in the twentysomething generation. Given the party lifestyle that America loves to perpetuate, there is bound to be difficulties for those who can’t grasp when the party is over for them. This is a honest appraisal of such a situation, as Winstead goes through the phases of recovery as a fleshed-out human being, and uses her character’s strengths and weaknesses in confronting the backlash that recovering from alcoholism has on her marriage and life. It’s powerful stuff, but it also has humor, appropriate emotion, awkwardness and an expressive heart.
Kate Hannah (Winstead) is a school teacher by day, and co-dependent by night. Her and her husband Charlie (Aaron Paul) are unapologetic drunks, usually beginning their binges right after that last bell. Kate especially is in a death spiral, as she is shown driving drunk, trying crack cocaine and getting sick in front of her students. The illness also starts a series of lies, and Kate can’t help but self-reflect on what this life is doing to her.
She is aided on this reflective journey by a co-worker named Dave (Nick Offerman), who expresses his own recovery to her, and offers to take her to an AA meeting. She immediately adapts to the atmosphere, even asking Jenny (Octavia Spencer) to be her sponsor. This is the beginning of a true shift in Kate’s life. She no longer participates with Charlie in binge drinking, and she forces herself into a awkward reunion with her mother (Mary Kay Place). She even confronts the lie she told to cover up the incident with her class, by coming clean to Principal Barnes (Megan Mullally). It’s a long way to go to where she needs to be.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classic