Overlooked Film of the Week- #65
What drives people to become alcoholics? Do people experience some kind of trauma in their formative or adolescent years? Do they turn to it because their families were and that is the only lifestyle they have ever known? This is not something I have given much serious thought to, even though I and my family have known some definite alcoholics in our life. I never took anytime to really think about how people arrive to that and how much they struggle with it. I can’t say that I was a perfect, sober person. When I was college, my friends and I had some rowdy weekends, every weekend. I remember my sophomore year of college and there was not a single Friday or Saturday night where I wasn’t up until 5:00am. It was a crazy and fun four years, but after I graduated, I noticed something. My friends, whether they are my college friends or my friends back home, we are a lot tamer when we get together. Sure, on special occasions, we stay up and drink plenty. But I have noticed that we are a lot tamer, and I can honestly assess that I don’t think I have a single friend who will ever become an alcoholic.
“Smashed” is a film about a young couple Katie (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul). Katie is a first grade teacher at a nameless elementary school and Charlie is an unemployed, writer who stays at home and seemingly drinks nearly all day. They really love each other, but their free time only amounts to drinking lots and lots AND LOTS of alcohol. One night, Katie is going home from a bar, and something happens. Something that kind wakes her up, she has been in embarrassing situation after embarrassing situation in the fifteen minute opening of the film, but this one bad night breaks the camel’s back. Katie decides to start going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and wishes to get sober. While Charlie offers help through this transition, Charlie does not stop his drinking lifestyle and that begins to form a wedge between the couple. Katie does not know what she will potentially loose when getting sober, but does that mean she should just give in?
“Smashed” is a sincere little movie about what can happen when somebody becomes an alcoholic. It is also a movie about what can happen if the world around a person trying to get sober never changes. “Smashed” is a movie that features blistering drama and unrelenting performances by Winstead and Paul. There are some funny parts in the movie, but they are hard laughs. “Smashed” is a dramatic-comedy in every sense of the genre, but there is a grand metaphor laced within everything that happens in the film and it is a real story with something substantial to say.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is charming and adorable as Katie. Winstead is a good-looking actress and she is an actress who has been glamorized her in roles in the past. In “Smashed” she allows herself to be de-glamorized at moments in the film, she allows herself to look ugly. This is a role that I am not sure every, single actress in Hollywood would have the stones to perform, and Winstead makes it all effortless. If Winstead ends up with more roles like this, I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll be an Academy Award winning actress one day. Aaron Paul in this one role has come a long way from his time as Jesse Pinkman on AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” and he does very well as a man struggling with his own demons. Paul does harrowing work here, and he should be credited here.
The other two noteworthy performances come from Nick Offerman and Octavia Spencer. Nick Offerman is a teacher who works at Katie’s school and gets her to start going to AA meetings. Spencer plays a member of the AA who later becomes Katie’s sponsor. There are a couple moments when Offerman is gut-wrenchingly funny, but his role and quiet and calculated. Spencer also does nice work, her appearance maybe brief, but she totally makes a mark in the film.
“Smashed” is small in scale, but big in heart and sometimes that is all you need.