Movie Review: Smashed (2012)
Directed by: James Ponsoldt
Written by: James Ponsoldt and Susan Burke
Running Time: 81 min
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Kate Hannah
Aaron Paul: Charlie Hannah
Nick Offerman: Dave Davies
Megan Mullally: Principal Barnes
Octavia Spencer: Jenny
What constitutes rock bottom? Needing a drink in the morning to get going? Keeping a flask in your car for pick me ups? Throwing up in front of your elementary school class? Lying to your boss about being pregnant? Smoking crack with a stranger and passing out on an abandoned sofa in a homeless camp? All of these questions are asked in the drama "Smashed". Kate Hannah is a young, twentysomething schoolteacher who finds herself spiraling out of control with alcohol. She is married to Charlie, a writer. Together, the two of them frequently drink to the point of blacking out. When Kate wonders out loud if she should stop partying, Charlie tells her he'll help. They'll become the "wine with dinner" couple. But as we all know, it takes a lot more than that to kick an addiction.
As to the questions asked in the beginning of the review, the answer to that is no. You have to go a little bit deeper and darker to get to the bottom of Kate Hannah's life. At times, it is difficult to watch. But the film doesn't gloss over addiction or glamorize it in any way. It's ugly. It looks bad. It's embarrassing. And it will literally take away everything you have. And Kate isn't the only addict in the movie. She comes by it naturally. Her mother, Rochelle, is a long-time alcoholic. When Kate goes to visit her for the first time in years, we discover that Kate's father was a drunk as well. But he got sober and left her mother when she was a kid.
Her husband, Charlie, is also an alcoholic. Together, the two of them are quite a mess. I hesitate to use that old word enabling, but that is exactly what the two of them do to each other. When Kate wets the bed after a night drinking, Charlie just laughs it off. When Kate doesn't come home on numerous occasions because she's passed out on the side of the road somewhere, he doesn't even come looking for her. Why? Because he was passed out drunk at home. Clearly, this relationship is not healthy for either of them. And when she tries to stop drinking, he continues to get sloshed around her.
At her school, she finds a sympathetic ear in Mr. Davies, the Vice Principal. After confessing to him that she was not having morning sickness but was actually hung over, he tells her that he is a recovering alcoholic. He convinces her to start attending some meetings and there she meets her sponsor, Jenny. The meetings help Kate, but as we all know, the road to sobriety is a tough one. After the Principal of her school, Ms. Barnes, throws her a baby shower, she is overcome with guilt at her deception. She finally confesses it all to her boss and subsequently loses her job.
This is too much for Kate and she relapses. Luckily, she survives and with the help of her group, she is able to begin a healthier path. She does have to leave Charlie behind. And as bad as it got for Kate, she wasn't nearly the drunk that Charlie turned out to be. Living in a state of complete denial (sorry but you had to know that word would come up in a review of a movie about drunks, right?), he simply cannot get himself together.
I liked this film a lot. The performances were genuine and raw. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gave a truly authentic portrayal of a young woman set on a path to destruction. She is never over the top or clownish when she is acting drunk.
Aaron Paul is great as Charlie. You will know him from Breaking Bad, but if you thought he was a one-trick pony, think again. He is sweet and childlike as Charlie. You know he's bad news, but you can't help but pull for him.
Megan Mullally is an interesting choice to play the serious principal. Having known her so well as Karen, the drunk on "Will and Grace", I was happy to discover that she too is a great talent. She's not in the film a lot, but when she is she is just great. Her real-life husband, Nick Offerman, is in the film, too, as Mr. Davies. I am a HUGE Nick Offerman fan. I cannot state that too strongly. And if you only know him from "Parks and Recreation", then you need to see him in this. He is quiet, a little shy, socially awkward, and all around adorable in this film.
Octavia Spencer is the only weak link in the film, if there is one. She's not too bad, but I find her to be a little too showy. You are aware that she is acting the whole time, and to me, that's not what you want. It's distracting as she reads her lines. She's just not authentic.