'Smashed' reveals the fun of drinking — and the costs
The cheerful drunk can be a welcome presence at a party or a night out.
It's when he or she isn't so cheerful anymore, and just drunk, that things deteriorate. For everyone involved.
Luckily for “Smashed,” James Ponsoldt's look at alcoholism in a young couple, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of the drunks in question. She gives a flat-out great performance as Kate Hannah, a wife and teacher who, at the beginning of the film, sticks her head out of the morning shower to finish off the last few sips of a beer.
She follows that up with a few swigs from a flask in the parking lot of the elementary school where she works. Her husband, Charlie (Aaron Paul), a music writer when he gets around to it, is busy sleeping off the previous night's festivities.
Only on this morning, as Kate teaches, there is a complication: Suddenly nauseated, she vomits into a garbage can in front of all her students. Stunned, grossed out, amused, one student suggests a cause: Are you pregnant, Mrs. Hannah?
Caught off guard, reeling, hungover, buzzed, whatever, Kate makes a fateful decision.
She says yes.
This sets in motion the heart of the story. Kate has a pretty good idea that her drinking is out of control. This is driven home forcefully the night she gives a woman a ride home, smokes crack with her and wakes up beside the Los Angeles River. Another night, an after-hours attempt to buy wine proves disastrous. But this is not a polemic. Ponsoldt also shows the messy good times Kate and Paul have while they're drinking. At times, getting drunk seems like the one thing the pair have in common.
When Kate realizes she needs to quit, Charlie doesn't try to make her drink. He's just always there, beer in hand, ready to hand her one. He's more of an observer in their marriage at times than an actual participant. (And, unfortunately, in the movie. Paul is a great actor without a lot to do here.)
Dave (Nick Offerman), the vice principal at Kate's school, saw her drinking in the parking lot that morning and has a pretty good idea of what's going on. He's in AA and invites Kate to a meeting. Charlie won't go, but he doesn't stand in Kate's way; if anything, he seems bemused by the notion.
Kate finds a worldly wise sponsor in Jenny (Octavia Spencer) and is happy with her progress. But it's not easy. Honesty is one of the hallmarks of AA, but Kate learns that it sometimes comes at a harsh price.
The movie doesn't preach or offer any miracle cures, not for Kate's drinking or her marriage or anything else. Life is a lot of work, whether you're an alcoholic or not. Kate's just requires more effort than most.
Everyone in the film is good. Offerman and Megan Mullally (as the principal at Kate's school) do well in more-dramatic roles than we're used to seeing them in. Mary Kay Place is harrowing without meaning to be as Kate's mother.
But this is Winstead's movie, to an almost unfortunate degree. She plays Kate just right, revealing the fun of drinking and the costs. She's believable, relatable and likable. But the script, by Ponsoldt and Susan Burke, relies on her a little too much. “Smashed” would have been a better movie if Winstead hadn't been asked to carry quite so much of the load, but luckily, she's up to the task.
Bill Goodykoontz is a movie critic for The Arizona Republic.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Plum students protest orders to keep mum about sex cases
- Injured Penguins optimistic about returning next season
- Coach Johnston trying to figure out why Penguins ‘fell off a cliff’
- McKees Rocks council president arrested after SWAT standoff
- Crosby, Malkin want to remain in Pittsburgh
- Counselors available at Hempfield after crash kills student
- Behind starter Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Diamondbacks
- Forbes Avenue jeweler’s embedded sidewalk sign safely slides out to make way for Pittsburgh Playhouse project
- Pirates notebook: Wainwright injury doesn’t sway Hurdle on DH
- Washington’s Shelton grows into big role, looks forward to draft
- Oak Ridge couple transforms 1820 house into quaint bed and breakfast