Review by Jude Felton
If the advertising companies are to be believed, drinking is cool. Their products are cool; you never get drunk and life is just peachy. As long as, of course, you enjoy their product responsibly. This, as we all know, is not really the case, and I am sure I am not alone in suffering from some blinding hangovers. Not recently though, as personally I very rarely drink, but in the past I have had some pretty spectacular nights out.
One thing that has never happened to me though is puking in front of a class of school children. This is what happens to Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after a particularly impressive night’s drinking. She tells the kids that she is pregnant, but this is only one example in a life that is slowly going off the rails. The reason for this is that Kate and her husband Charlie (Aaron Paul) like to do nothing more than drink, a lot and frequently, party, have unconscious sex and wake up in strange and random places.
Realizing that things are getting beyond control, Kate eventually takes steps in getting sober. It’s not an easy task, and it is made all the more difficult when Charlie keeps on drinking; offering her no real support whatsoever.
Smashed could have ended up being a very preachy movie, kind of in the vein of 28 Days, but instead it is just very matter of fact. You get drunk, you pee in public. You get drunk; you turn into a different person. Smashed will make you feel uncomfortable in places, and quite honestly the thought of attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is more than enough to put me off ever drinking quite this much.
What really holds the movie together though is the lead performance by Winstead. Quite simply she is excellent here, and sells the role perfectly. It helps of course that she is supported by a fine cast, from Paul, as her loving but thoughtless husband, to Dave Davies, as her very creepy friend.
Whilst watching Smashed I was actually quite surprised at how much I was enjoying it. Aside from the fear of it preaching to me, there was also the fear that it could be horribly depressing, which it wasn’t. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but director and co-writer James Ponsoldt manages to balance everything exceptionally well. The only real failing for me was that the film was far too short; on the DVD sleeve it states the running time as 81 minutes, which is short in itself, yet even shorter when the credits actually hit at the 75 minute mark. I'm also not a fan of the accompanying artwork, which comes across as incredibly trite and takes away from the actual film itself.
I honestly believe that the story could have been fleshed out a little more, as there was plenty that could have been expanded on, although that being said Smashed does work incredibly well. Credit should be given to Ponsoldt for not bloating the story, where it could have ended up either wallowing in self-pity or indeed slapping itself on the back.
Rather than operate as an anti-drinking movie, which I don’t really believe it is, it serves to give an example of one person’s determination to make a change in their life. This change could have been from anything, it just so happens that in Smashed it is about drinking. This really is a very good film.
Smashed is funny, sobering and thought-provoking, without ramming it down your throat, and features one of the most endearing lead performances I have seen in a while. I’ve always enjoyed watching Winstead on screen, but this may well be her best performance thus far.
Smashed is released on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony and is available now.