“Last night I ended up… smoking crack” — Smashed (Ponsoldt, 2012)
Hey y’all. Have you just come home from Future Music and the night out afterwards?
I hope not. Ew.
BUT, if you have… I can almost guarantee you’re nursing a sweet hangover? Amiright?
Well, that means you’ll be requiring a movie to watch while you nurse your hangover, apply your aloe vera and beat yourself up over the fact that you totes missed Ellie Goulding play/sing/squwark/whatever. (Jokes, I love Ellie).
I HAVE THE MOVIE FOR YOU.
ITS ABOUT ALCOHOLISM.
Oh, the stinging irony.
It’s called Smashed (2012), and I loved it.
Smashed is a valuable, non-judgmental addition to the cinema of addiction. It focuses on Kate, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead — The Thing (2011), Death Proof (2007), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) . Kate is a Los Angeles primary-school teacher. She lives with her husband Charlie, played by Aaron Paul — Breaking Bad (2008 -2013). Charlie is a journalist working from home.
This little picture is as much about lies, self-deception and mutual dependency as it is about drinking. It takes place over 18 months or so. Both the beginning and the end of the film feature the two characters mid-sentance.
Kate and Charlie drink. Like, DRINK DRINK. Then one day, a hungover Kate VOMITS beside the blackboard in front of her class. She covers up by accepting a bright young pupil’s conjecture that she’s pregnant. Kate is mortified to find that she is now stuck with the lie — and the sympathy it provokes from the school’s principal.
A fellow teacher who is now a recovering alcoholic — Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec (2009-2013) and Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) — draws Kate into AA. Here, she tries to ‘stay on the wagon’ which makes things difficult with her alcoholic mother. Mostly thought, she finds her relationship with Charlie, whose patronising chivalry leads him to suggest he’ll give up drink just to help her, suffering.
This is a quiet, nuanced, truthful film that avoids melodrama and grand confrontations. Ponsoldt and his co-writer Susan Burke know there is no simple explanation and no easy solutions. Their film, pared down but never tidy, has an outstanding central performance from Winstead that demonstrates Kate’s emotional and intellectual understanding of the complexities of alcoholism. WINSTEAD IS AMAZING!
Paul is fabulous as Charlie. Do we hate him? Do we get him? By the end, he had me crying. If his last sentence doesn’t have you snivelling, then I don’t think we can be friends any more.
Overall, I loved Smashed because it dodges gooey sentiment. Winstead and Paul are dynamite, artfully walking the tightrope between pain and denial. There’s resonant intelligence and healing humour.
With a beer in hand?