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Smashed - Review

Smashed

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

FILMS that tackle addiction usually provide a good barometer of someone’s acting chops. They can also be pretty depressing.

James Ponsoldt’s Smashed manages to avoid the pitfalls of the latter point while also providing a useful showcase of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s ability, an actress so far more commonly associated with playing feisty action heroines in action and horror films (she was Bruce Willis’s daughter in Die Hard 4, the Ripley-esque lead in The Thing prequel and a kick-ass Romona in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World ).

Here, Winstead plays Kate Hannah, a primary school teacher with a penchant for drinking who gets a reality check when she projectile vomits in front of her class and is forced to pretend she is pregnant.

Help comes in the form of a sympathetic school colleague (Parks & Recreation‘s Nick Offerman) and her eventual sponsor (The Help‘s Octavia Spencer) but it places a strain on her relationship with her husband, the party-loving Charlie (Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul).

Ponsoldt’s film is notable for acknowledging the highs and lows of addiction and never becoming too heavy-handed or melodramatic. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that Winstead’s journey is perhaps a little too easy.

The mix of humour and drama is sometimes uneven, too, while the attempt to combine relationship drama with personal turmoil not always successful.

But Winstead is good value and worthy of the acclaim surrounding her performance (both vulnerable and determined), Paul is great as her husband and Spencer is also on good form as the sponsor.

Ponsoldt’s direction is grounded and slick enough to maintain the film’s momentum and, for all its flaws, it also succeeds in delivering a conclusion that’s both fitting and even poignant. Without ever blowing you away, it leaves a decent impression.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 81mins
UK Release Date: December 14, 2012