Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman, Octavia Spencer
Directed by James Ponsoldt, written by Susan Burke and James Ponsoldt
IMDB Rating: 6.8
This story on alcoholism and it’s affect on everyday life gives one of my favourite actresses a leading role – and she doesn’t disappoint.
I’m not being funny, but the trailer above might be one of the worse movie trailers I’ve ever seen. It’s just so plain and doesn’t really do anything to sell the movie, it just gives you the bare bones of what it’s about.
Kate (Winstead) and Charlie (Paul) Hannah are a happily married couple. However, their healthy relationship is built upon an love formed by their excessive binge drinking. Kate doesn’t think anything of it, having come from a family of heavy drinkers, until she wakes up in the middle of nowhere having smoked crack with a strange woman. That incident, coupled with throwing up in front of the 1st graders she teaches, forces her to take a look at her actions. She decides to stop drinking and is persuaded by fellow school worker Dave Davies (Offerman) to attend AA meetings. At the meetings she becomes friends with Jenny (Spencer), who sponsors Kate as she tries to stay dry with her heavily intoxicated husband as their relationship is stretched to breaking point. Kate is also warned about a trend, the amount of couples formed on the back of drinking that split up once one goes sober.
This is another film like the recently reviewed Short Term 12, an independent film that centres on a troubling issue but has an overriding sense of positivity throughout. The story feels real and believable although I have not seen a situation like this in my personal life, however I’m not sure that in real life a loving, happily married couple would fall apart because one stopped drinking. There isn’t many twists and turns as you would expect in this movie, it’s very much a character driven piece where you sympathise with Kate and what she’s going through, rather than waiting for something to happen that makes life harder for her. This also isn’t the most exciting story of all time, which I guess is important for the realism of it.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as mentioned earlier one of my favourite actresses, is exceptional in Smashed. She perfectly embodies the films personality by giving off positive body language but still being very vulnerable. However simple this sounds, she does a very good job of bringing Kate to life – in other words Winstead turns Kate into a very real, believable person with completely normal but human qualities. Aaron Paul is also solid in this film as Kate’s drunk husband, but is very similar here to his performance in TV series Breaking Bad. Maybe that will be hard for him to ever shake off? Everyone else was okay, nothing really exceptional here.
James Ponsoldt – director of The Spectacular Now, one of my favourite films of all time – is solid in Smashed. Like in The Spectacular Now, his shots and scenery create an extra bit of sweetness in a world where it could have easily gone missing. There’s nothing really astounding by him because the general easy going-ness of the film doesn’t leave much room for anything spectacular, but it’s still to a good standard.
This is very much a small time film – shot in 19 days and costing an estimated $500,000 to make, a great example of what you can do without the meg bucks of Hollywood. While I’ve seen better films than this, Smashed is real easy viewing. If you’re a fan of Winstead and Aaron Paul’s previous work and then you’ll really enjoy this film, however if these are two actors that don’t really bother you then there is definitely better, more exciting and engaging films you can spend your time watching!