The addiction film often has a certain kind of trajectory: things are
great, fun, lovely. Things are not so great, borderline disturbing.
Things are terrible. Things hit rock bottom and then there is,
sometimes, the redemptive finish. “Smashed” doesn’t let you off that
easy and it’s a delicious change of pace.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Kate, a teacher who is not sheepish
about taking a few chugs from a flask before going into the first grade
classroom. When she vomits in front of her students, she ends up telling
a lie that puts her into an increasingly uncomfortable situation. And at home
there’s her husband (Aaron Paul), whom she had built a bond with over
years of boozing together. As she makes an effort to get sober, the
relationship fractures in unexpected ways.
Director James Ponsoldt’s quiet, delicate film handles the intricacies
of Kate’s struggle for sobriety with perfect sensitivity. Winstead’s
performance is stunning, visceral and a career-changer that will put her
in the big leagues in no time. Anyone who has struggled with addiction
should see this film, but even those who have not will identify with one
woman’s struggle to change herself.