When first grade schoolteacher Kate Hannah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) begins her day, she sneaks in a quick drink in the parking lot before getting out of her car. Already hung-over from the previous evening’s binge, Kate then faces her class. By all accounts she appears to be a good teacher. Then, in front of the class while trying to solve a math problem, she vomits into the trash can. As the title of the film suggests, Kate is smashed.
“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” Kate tells her husband while playing pool at a nearby bar, a mug of beer in her hand. “The drinking leads to everything stupid that I do.” And she’s right, it does, but she continues doing it all the same, until she acts as a good Samaritan when giving a ride to another woman. The other woman happens to have a small pipe containing crack and she talks Kate into smoking some with her. The next thing Kate knows is that it is morning and she is lying at the side of the road somewhere in the city without a clue as to how she got there or what happened the evening before. Time to check in.
Smashed is a well performed film that illustrates not only how difficult it is for an alcoholic to admit they have a problem, but how difficult it is to deal with that problem when those around you are less than supportive. The first thing Kate’s mom wants to do when meeting her daughter is to serve up a couple of Bloody Marys in the middle of the day, while Kate’s husband, Charlie (Aaron Paul), openly admits he has no time for A.A. meetings. “It has brainwashed you,” he slurs when Kate says no to another glass. “At least I’m not drunk,” she returns.
The film is short. With a running time of only eighty-five minutes you feel things wrapping up much faster than they should. The opening credit, which usually heralds the beginning of a film, doesn’t splash across the screen until the fourteen minute mark, which means at that point there is little more than an hour of film left, and yet it feels as if it’s only just begun. The first and second acts are fine. Perhaps the writers felt there was no more story to tell, but after such a strong beginning and an involving middle, having the third act move to a conclusion so quickly simply feels rushed.
“I just want to have a beer without it turning into twenty,” Kate states at a support group meeting, and you can feel her sincerity. “When I drink I become a different person.”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead developed the reputation of being a young queen of horror because of her teenage scream roles in such films as The Ring Two, Black Christmas and Final Destination 3. Her role as Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was something quite refreshing, but it was last year when she took the lead as a take-charge scientist in the prequel of The Thing that audiences really noticed her. Admittedly, The Thing was still part of the horror genre, but it was grown-up, and Winstead was terrific. With Smashed she has come of age. It’s not only a role that plants her firmly out of the world of teenage terror, but showcases her talent as a fine, dramatic actress with a promise of more good things to come. In fact, Winstead is better than the film. While the actor fulfills and actually surpasses the promise of earlier work it’s a shame that Smashed never fulfills its own promise of a strong beginning. Still, the film is worth seeing, though not to get a fresher insight into the world of alcoholism but to watch a fine young actress come of age. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 85 minutes Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)