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The Kidd Vs. SMASHED

Every so often, Hollywood takes a look at the darker side of booze. Quite often, heavy drinking and the stupidity that follows is played up for laughs, usually among teenagers or college kids, who can't lay off that next shot as it'll have them throwing up on the hot girl or taking a leak in the middle of the street or whatever. Don't get me wrong... I'm not trying to poop on the party, as I certainly think there is a place for humor built around the premise of binge drinking. However, as hilarious as these dumb shenanigans brought on by intoxication can be, that reliance on alcohol can be equally heart-wrenching in a dramatic setting, where we're watching it send someone's life into a downward spiral. What we're told is that alcoholism is a disease, and in SMASHED, we watch it take hold of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and slowly but surely destroy her life as she deals with her own irresponsibility, an enabling husband and mother, denial, rationalization and tons of out-of-control behavior that is brought on the second the drinks start flowing.

Winstead plays Kate, a first grade teacher with a serious drinking problem. I can understand maybe taking a swig of something before having to go in every day to deal with 30 screaming children, but imbibing some libations off her trusty flask sidekick is the least of her problems. This is a woman who can be easily convinced to smoke crack with a crackhead in need of a ride upon tipsily leaving a bar to drive home under the influence. Talk about doubling down on the bad decisions, and unfortunately for her, it's only going to get worse. Being so hungover that you throw up in front of your class one morning and then, to cover it up, lie about being pregnant poses its own set of problems, and it's not like she's getting any help combatting her destructive behavior from her husband. Charlie, played by BREAKING BAD's Aaron Paul, can't lay off the drinks either. He's not nearly as bad as his wife, but the type of support an alcoholic needs in order to address their problem isn't going to come from another active alcoholic. As a result, we're left to watch the constant struggle by Kate to combat this illness that threatens her marriage, her job and, at times, her life as everything she's come to think and know and do has become fueled by alcohol.

Winstead is an emotional powerhouse here in James Ponsoldt's film. There's nothing uplifting about watching someone's life deteriorate with each pour of the bottle, and Winstead demolishes her typical cuteness accordingly as Kate's circumstances only get worse. This is the girl who probably started out as fun after a few drinks and has become the angry and unstable drunk who'll do anything including shoplifting in order to score one more drop. That's how badly she has come to need it, transforming from embarrassing to scary. Winstead is able to draw us into Kate's struggle with addiction and her crusade for sobriety, even if it means leaving behind the only things she knows at this point in her life. Strong supporting players Nick Offerman (PARKS AND RECREATION's Ron Swanson) and Octavia Spencer (Oscar winner for THE HELP) make up her support group, in helping Kate transition from her demons to a healthier, happier and safer way of life that isn't without its confrontational relapses. The road to recovery is hardly a smooth one, and Winstead's phenomenal performance allows us to feel every bump along the way.

Paul also turns in solid work, perhaps even more impressive than Winstead's in some respects, as he's working against the Jesse Pinkman role he's become one with over the AMC series' run. Even as I waited for the film to begin, "Yeah, bitch!!" began to creep into my head. However, while there is a certain degree of likability to Paul's meth dealer/addict on the show, he's able to introduce a goofy appeal to Charlie. This isn't a character looking to hurt anyone, he just wants to have a good time. He's not a bad person with bad motivations, just a severe like of drinking. You know that Charlie loves his wife, but he's not willing to make the sacrifices necessary in order to keep what he has intact. When you add in Paul's contribution to the sad equation that makes up this marriage on the rocks, SMASHED raises the stakes of what Kate stands to lose if she can't stop drinking... and what she may have to leave behind anyway even if she does, as she changes while the world around her stays the same. 

SMASHED is the riveting journey of an addict, and, while it may be painful to watch at times for its realistic glimpse at the negatives of alcohol, Winstead takes you by the hand and lets you know it's going to be okay to watch the fall, because her rise from it will be all the more rewarding. This is a solid little film bolstered by a cast more than capable of handling the seriousness of the subject matter that sobers you up really quickly to the idea that drinking can be all fun and games until someone's sadly pissing themselves. 


-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 11, 2012, 12:18 p.m. CST

    Bad teacher 2: The crackhead.

    by Smerdyakov

  • Actually I think the way the poster makes this look like a romantic dramedy sort of gives that away, but I just thought I'd take the time to call a stranger on the internet a jerk, for the flimsiest of excuses.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 12:33 p.m. CST

    I have no sympathy for drunks

    by Beebop

    Never have, never will.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 12:41 p.m. CST

    junkie movies feel more like an actor's excercise than a real movie

    by Spandau Belly

    Except for TRAINSPOTTING, that one's got a real story and memorable characters while also doing a good job of capturing the junkie lifestyle. But most junkie movies just feel like I'm watching an actor show off their chops.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 12:59 p.m. CST

    Teachers are such a punching bag...

    by Taragor

    and it's really tiresome to watch on TV and movies. Yes I am one, and just because each day i deal with 180 teenagers, doesn't mean I run home to drink. Just wish they would portray the profession a bit better at times. Sometimes our hands are really tied, but it doesn't mean we are all awful.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 1 p.m. CST

    Yeah, I'm pretty wary of addict movies

    by mr.underwater

    All too often they're either -Drug porn for straight people -ACTING (thank you!) Didn't I already suffer through Ryan Gosling as a crackhead teacher?

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 1:02 p.m. CST


    by FluffyUnbound

    That's all I have to say. Drunk or not, still hot.

  • But he isn't handing any out! Nope!

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 1:28 p.m. CST


    by MoistMuskyCamelToe

    I absolutely didn't make any connection between her profession and her addiction. I don't see how it's a slight on teachers, rather more of a commentary on functional alcoholism. Nor do I have any sympathy for one's chosen profession- cops, firefighters, paramedics, teachers and proctologists all knew what they were signing up for.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 1:39 p.m. CST

    The problem with junkie movies is junkies don't do much.

    by Smerdyakov

    They seek out dope, take it and then lie around drooling. Even movies like "Sid and Nancy" get bogged down by the sheer boredom of a junkie's existence.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 1:44 p.m. CST

    knowing what you signed up for.

    by mcgillj

    I hate that expression.. especially in a career context.. Yes.. I know in my chosen job I have to deal with the public. But.. until you do have to deal with the public AT LARGE and en masse you really don't truly appreciate how stupid, dopey, inconsiderate and selfish they really are. A teacher gets into a job to try and educate and teach. but when you are further and further hamstrung by budget cuts, swelling class sizes, doped up kids (legal and otherwise) and just apathetic kids (and parents). Then to top it off wages that are comparable to a night shift fry cook at McDonald's.. should we be so SHOCKED to see teachers drinking themselves into oblivion.. and doing porn? It's just a very depressing profession.. especially at this current time.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 1:58 p.m. CST


    by Taragor

    Nor did I say you did. I was just stating a commentary about how teachers are portrayed in movies and TV. Never complained about my professional choice either. As I stated, I don't run home to a bottle, I actually enjoy what I do. Right now, I get a sense from the media, and parents that teachers seem to be a problem that needs fixing. I feel that there is a larger story hidden underneath. I work with many people who are very happy with their chosen profession. Each day seems to bring something new. My wife is also a teacher, and enjoys what she does. Again, my point wasn't to "troll" this review, it was a general statement about the portrayal of teachers. The fact that the screen writer chose to make this character an elementary teacher with alcoholism isn't exactly a "teachers gone wrong" statement, but nonetheless is sad to see.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 2:05 p.m. CST


    by Taragor

    You are so very right. As a side note.... There was a teacher in California who had done some porn before she became a teacher. If she was still doing it, I am not sure, but either way it was outside of work time. The school district got upset when they "found out". Want to know how????? Kids found it. So rather than blast the children for looking at something that is rated as "porn" and thus only for those over 18. The school board got together and voted her out. Keep in mind, there is NOTHING in a contract about what you have done previously nor what you do on your own time. THIS is what our society has come to. Flinging poo on others when overlooking our own mistakes. I'm not even saying I agree with porn, but this was NOT a teacher who was sleeping with her students or acting inappropriately with them. Anyway....rant over.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 2:13 p.m. CST

    Wasn't that teacher that did porn just a hoax?

    by kindofabigdeal

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 2:28 p.m. CST

    She really did....

    by Taragor

    I was interested when the story broke, so I looked to see if her name appeared on the website for the faculty at Haydock Intermediate in Oxnard, Ca. She is not there anymore, but at the time the story broke, there was her name Stacy Halas, she went by Tiffany in the pron industry. You should be able to google search the articles on it. Anyway, just sad how much our society is on witch hunts these days.

  • Brillant, just fucking brillant!! The genious!!! Some people really need to get shot in the ass!

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 3:47 p.m. CST

    Could be a fun drinking game. Drink whenever she drinks.

    by kindofabigdeal

    For the hardcore's, match booze and quantity with the character.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 3:52 p.m. CST

    I can watch MEW in anything

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    I even sat through that horrible remake of Black Christmas just for her. *sigh*

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 7:11 p.m. CST

    @Mr nasty in the pasty

    by albert comin

    But did you watched The Thing?

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 8:22 p.m. CST

    MEW? lmao... really?

    by Norman Colson

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 8:48 p.m. CST

    MEW has been used on several websites.

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Beats typing out "Mary Elizabeth" over and over. And yes, I've seen The Thing. It's a good movie.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 11:34 p.m. CST

    Is this a reboot of Half-Nelson ?

    by ShavedLeatherPig