Review of Smashed

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Aaron Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead play Charlie and Kate, a husband and wife couple whose bond is built on a mutual fondness for alcohol. When Kate’s partying spirals into hard-core asocial behavior, compromising her job as an elementary schoolteacher, something’s got to give. But change isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Sobriety means she will have to confront the lies she’s been living at work, her troubled relationship with her mother, and the nature of her bond with Charlie. James Ponsoldt directs the dramedy film, which he co-wrote with Susan Burke. Octavia Spencer also stars.
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Movie Review: "Smashed"

-- Rating: R (alcohol abuse, language, some sexual content, and brief drug use)
Length: 85 minutes
Release Date: October 12, 2012
Directed by: James Ponsoldt
Genre: Comedy, Drama

To the unsuspecting movie lover, it appears that "Smashed" is just another ordinary film about the damaging effects of alcohol. However, it is so much more than that. The movie shows how everyone needs to discover who they really are, and if giving up alcohol is part of that, so be it. The production of "Smashed" was first announced on Sept. 21, 2011, by Super Crispy Entertainment. The lead roles were awarded to Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul, with Octavia Spencer and Nick Offerman playing supporting roles. After James Ponsoldt had cowritten the script with Susan Burke, he was offered the chance to direct the film. The whole movie was shot over a nineteen-day period. Not long after shooting had finished, "Smashed" was entered into the following year's Sundance Film Festival.

"Smashed" first premiered on Jan. 22, 2012, at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and won the prize of Excellence in Independent Film Producing from the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury. After this stunning success, the film was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics and was set for release on Oct. 12, 2012. Before "Smashed" was released in theaters, the film was also featured in the Deauville American Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival.

The film begins with a scene that many audience members in their 20s and early 30s can relate to: endless nights of drinking with a bunch of friends just for the heck of it. Winstead's character Kate is an elementary school teacher, while Paul plays the role of her husband, Charlie. Throughout the opening sequences, everything seems to be fine in their relationship. The two of them enjoy going out with friends to karaoke bars, and this generally means having some drinks along the way. However, the pair does not just have a few drinks; they regularly come home in the early hours of the morning. This is okay for Charlie, since he is a stay-at-home writer. However, Kate has to drive early each weekday morning to the elementary school where she teaches.

A short way into the film, viewers get an appreciation for just how bad Kate's alcoholism problem is; one day, while teaching her class, Kate throws up in front of her students. One of her more insightful students suggests that Kate is pregnant, to which Kate says that this is the case. However, this moment is really the turning point of the whole film because Kate realizes that she needs to make drastic changes in her life.

To prevent her alcoholism from ruining her career, Kate confesses to the vice principal of her school, Mr. Davies (played by Offerman). As he is a recovering drug addict, he suggests that Kate should go to an AA meeting. Desperate for answers to her problems, Kate decides to attend and forms a relationship with a woman who will eventually become her sponsor, Jenny (played by Spencer). Kate feels that the AA meetings are really helping her, but her husband is not convinced at all. In fact, Charlie declares his extreme dislike for AA because it has changed his wife into someone else. The interplay between these two characters shows the effects that consuming alcohol, or swearing it off, can have on a relationship. Kate begins to understand just how bad alcohol has affected Charlie's life, and, at the same time, she realizes how much it used to influence her.

The film's script is very careful not to turn the viewer away by preaching about the dangerous effects of alcohol. Instead, "Smashed" tries to show how people can discover their true selves when they give up alcohol. The contrast between Winstead's character and Paul's character could not be more different. The former is attempting to change her life for the better while the latter is afraid to discover what life truly holds in store for him.

"Smashed" hits all the right notes and is perfect for any couple who has experienced the negative effects of alcohol on their relationship. Winstead puts in a truly remarkable performance of a character whose attitude does a complete 180 over the course of the film. The key to the film making such an impact on the viewer is that the audience can relate to the two main characters, Kate and Charlie. Although there are some humorous scenes thrown in for good measure, "Smashed" has a very serious and important message.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars