Kate and Charlie are a couple who drink together. A lot. And, for the most part, they have a pretty good time doing it, barring the sledge-hammer hangovers and wet mattresses. Except, in Kate’s words, things start to go from embarrassing to scary, not least when she goes to her job in a primary school so drunk she vomits in front of the kids.
Films about addiction can have a tendency to preach – to paint a black and white picture where alcohol, or drugs, are bad and being sober isn’t. But Smashed isn’t a polemic – parts are a paean to Kate’s drinking days: “They say that your worst day sober is better than your best day drunk. That’s not true – I had some amazing times drinking”. And while Kate’s path through AA is part of the story, her changing relationship with her husband is equally prominent. As she tries to give up drink, she’s faced with abandoning her social life, and maybe her marriage, too. This portrayal of alcohol as both a facilitator of good times and bad, of love as well as hate, makes Smashed stand out in a crowded field of addiction dramas.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead puts in a fine performance as Kate, flitting deftly between anguish and euphoria and Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad’s meth addicted anti-hero – also shines as the selfish but likeable husband.
There are plenty of uncomfortable moments but the pay-off is a rewarding and, at times, thoroughly affecting film.
First published in City A.M.