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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Smashed (review)

Smashed green light Mary Elizabeth Winstead Octavia Spencer

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s the other alchoholic-gets-a-wakeup-call movie of 2012, though Smashed is a lot less flashy than Flight: its $500K budget might possibly stretch to cover about two seconds of Flight’s plane-crash FX, but that’s it. And this one — from director James Ponsoldt, who cowrote with Susan Burke, based partly on her own experiences — eschews that other film’s swagger and sense of heighted reality to give us a wounded protagonist all of us are much more likely to be able to identify with. I mean, it’s hard to imagine anyone who might wonder whether they should have that third beer or fourth martini being put off by the tale of a hero flyboy who saves hundreds of lives despite the fact that he’s stoned and drunk at the time. But Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) Kate, a down-to-earth Los Angeles elementary school teacher with a modest home and ordinary life? Her world is recognizable. So when she reaches out of the shower in the morning to swig from a beer bottle… the same morning she has woken up to discover that she has pissed the bed — again — after a night of partying hard, the ugliness of that is hard and real and sharp. It’s only when she gets a one-two punch of such profound wretchedness that even she can see it that she vows to get herself clean. It won’t be easy. Not when her husband (Aaron Paul: The Last House on the Left) is still drinking. Not when her boss’s (Megan Mullally: Bee Movie) cooing concern over Kate when she believes Kate is sick turns to unsympathetic disgust when she learns Kate is an alcoholic. The supporting cast, also including Nick Offerman (Casa de Mi Padre) in an actual grownup role (as one of Kate’s coworkers with his own history of insobriety) and the always astonishing Octavia Spencer (The Help) as Kate’s AA sponsor Jenny, are a rough-edged joy to watch. But it’s Winstead who is the real wonder, taking us from Kate’s clueless oblivion through the shocked realization of the hell her life has become to her ambitious resolve to remake herself with an artless authenticity that is at once heartbreaking and heartening. The closest the film comes to an easy answer is Jenny’s philosophizing that “it’s hard to live your life honestly”… and Winstead sells Kate’s chagrinned acceptance of this bald fact as something hopeful.

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Smashed (2012)
US/Can release: Oct 12 2012
UK/Ire release: Dec 14 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated AA (may inspire alcohol avoidance)
MPAA: rated R for alcohol abuse, language, some sexual content and brief drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong language, sex references, sex and hard drug use)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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