By Liz Lopez
It is unusual how things work out at times, but recently during the Austin Film Festival, I viewed a movie on a Monday evening about an airline pilot with severe addictions and by the end of the week outside of the festival, I saw another film with a similar theme except the focus was on a female elementary school teacher. Both of the films were tough to watch, but then, people with addictions and those who love them do not have an easy life. Director James Ponsoldt co-wrote the dramatic screenplay with Susan Burke for Smashed and it is very realistic as to how addiction spares no one, despite their age, gender and background. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul are the young married couple who are having a time of their life partying every single day. I am thoroughly impressed with Winstead’s portrayal of a young woman who has grown up in an alcoholic environment and has continued overindulging with her spouse as part of their everyday life.
Winstead’s character, Kate Hannah, has hit rock bottom when we first see her on screen, but her husband, Charlie (Paul) does not seem to see it or perhaps does not want to. Kate decides to take steps towards sobriety and a fellow teacher, Dave Davies (Nick Offerman) offers to help, since he confesses he too had been down that road. At first, Davies is helpful, but then as he leaps into going from a helpful friend to a close relationship, Offerman does not excellent job of portraying a sleezy hound dog as he verbalizes what is on his mind. It is obvious he lacks the social skill set to talk to a woman, married or not.
It does not take long for Charlie to figure out the marriage is not the same when Kate is trying to sober up and he does not, of course, claiming she would rather be with other folks instead of him. Octavia Spencer, the 2012 Oscar winner for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role as Minny Jackson in The Help (2011), also gives a great performance as Kate’s mentor at the AA meetings. She does her best to be supportive to Kate, but when there is another traumatic incident in her life, the young woman takes a nasty slide back into alcoholism that makes Charlie snap like never before.
For some people, they may think this is a repetitive story and one they may want to avoid. There is something about Winstead’s performance in this story that makes it seem much more realistic; they are an everyday couple without money to burn living day to day lives. The story brings forth the fact that it can be anyone standing or sitting next to us at a social event where alcohol is served. They potentially can leave the place and land flat on their face alongside the road or wake up in a park like we see this kindergarten teacher do. It is downright frightening that it is someone’s reality and it did not take that much imagination to create this fictitious story. The script does not preach, but it sends a loud and clear message.
The film is rated R for some strong sexual content including graphic nudity, violence and language during the 85 minutes. Smashed opens in Austin on November 9th at Regal Arbor and Violet Crown. Don’t miss Winstead’s performance, as it is one character that you may soon not forget.