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Smashed, Lessions Learned (Film Review)

Nicely acted the film Smashed takes you on a journey of alcoholism and denial.  The movie does a good job of opening windows into the humiliating, demeaning and dire consequences of addiction to alcohol.  While not a Days of Wine and Roses, the film does make good grades as an educational tool.

The movie centers on a young married couple, Charlie (Aaron Paul) and Kate Hannah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), both addicted to alcohol.  While Charlie has accepted his fate and feels he has control of his addiction, Kate’s way off the radar when it comes to realizing the consequences of her actions.  

We pick up the story with Kate, after a night of heavy drinking, leaving for her grade school where she’s teaching.  She takes a quick drink in the parking lot and goes to her classroom.  While working with her 2nd grade class on spelling, she vomits in the waste basket.  Confronted by a student that she must be pregnant, she uses the excuse for her behavior.  When her lies start escalating to where she doesn’t know right from wrong, she accepts an invitation to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

With her life in a downward spiral Kate finds herself smoking crack with homeless people, inventing lies to avoid detection, facing embarrassment, losing her job and other demeaning affects. Mostly focusing on Kate the film digs deep into the problems created by alcohol abuse, shows how it affects the lives of the young couple and brings the dangers of drinking to the forefront.

Kate (Winstead) and Charlie (Paul) in Smashed

The performances are acceptable, especially the two main characters played by Winstead and Paul who are able to get under the skin of the two alcoholics.  While Paul depicts Charlie as a constant reminder of the downside of drinking creating a fun loving guy, carefree and lost in a haze of an unproductive  life, Winstead’s Kate becomes an example of a fight to bring oneself to reality and accept that there’s more to living than binging on booze. Although I love Winstead in the role, her wardrobe was very distracting with her frumpy long dated skirts, unrealistic clothing for a night out and odd garb for a sensual relationship in the bedroom.

Smashed plays out much like a Lifetime Television movie with more of a lesson learned rather than a taught consequential drama. Crass at times, the movie becomes preachy and unemotional.  I really can’t feel any strong passion for either character, although I do get the point that Director James Ponsoldt intended in the film.  Truly planned to be entertaining, Smashed however becomes instructional rather than inspirational.

Smashed has been rated R by the MPAA for alcohol abuse, language, some sexual content and brief drug use. Although the film doesn’t shock its intended audience or depict anything new, the lessons to be learned are explicitly clear.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good instructional film for a yielding uniformed audience.
Additional Film Information:

  • Cast: Aaron Paul, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Nick Offerman and Mary Kay Place
  • Directed by: James Ponsoldt
  • Genre: Drama
  • MPAA Rating: R for alcohol abuse, language, some sexual content and brief drug use
  • Running Time: 1 hr 25 min
  • Opening Date: November 21, 2012
  • Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

 

About John Delia

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John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for 8 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the South Eastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1.

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