Sunday, January 29, 2012


Co-writer/Director: James Ponsoldt
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul

Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives one of the most raw performances of any film at this year's Sundance Film Festival in Smashed, an unflinching look at the effects of alcohol on a relationship. 

Kate (Winstead) is an alcoholic who teaches elementary school during the day and spends every night getting wasted with her blogger husband Charlie (Aaron Paul). After one particularly embarrassing incident alerts Kate to her problem, she starts going to meetings with her co-worker (Nick Offerman) and her sponsor (Octavia Spencer). Charlie doesn't want to stop drinking, so he refuses to support Kate's decision and continues to be a terrible influence. But Ponsoldt isn't interested in villainizing him too much; instead, the disease is the center point through which all other conflicts are viewed.

This is a formidable role for Winstead, an actress known primarily for much lighter fare. But she shines just as often in little moments of realization as melodramatic outbursts, taking on a damaged character with dedicated intensity and giving the audience a reflection of something heartbreaking in the process. The supporting cast is great, but I think they were a bit underused (though "overusing" them would have taken time away from Winstead). Paul was solid, a sort of alternate version of his "Breaking Bad" character; more than anyone else, I wish we got to see more of him. Real-life couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally don't play former lovers this time as they do on "Parks and Rec": Offerman plays a friend of Kate's with a creepy pervert streak, and Mullally is the principal at her school, disappointed to find out the truth about Kate's condition.

Smashed is an honest portrait of the contaminating effect of alcoholism on a person's life and a painful look at making tough decisions regarding how to handle negative influences.

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