Another day means more new positive reviews for Mary’s amazing performance in SMASHED. Before I post them though, I’ve added new photos of Mary visiting the Bing Bar at Sundance 2012 where she was doing a press junket for the film. You can see the pics in the gallery or click on the thumbs below:
Now onto the new reviews, the first from THR.
An old Hollywood staple, an alcoholic’s journey from a lost weekend through the days of wine and roses, is refitted to the modern generation in Smashed. More than anything an outstanding showcase for the dramatic talents of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, James Ponsoldt’s second feature, after the 2006 Sundance entry Off the Black, which was also about an alcoholic, by its nature includes the obligatory AA meetings, spills off the wagon and strains with loved ones. But its sharp writing and essential credibility make this small, intimate tale fresh and involving enough to warrant further festival exposure and limited theatrical release.
Stories about addiction and attempted recovery from it basically have two possible arcs; either way, one pretty much knows what to expect dramatically, so there is a special burden on the writers and actors to bring new insights and flavors to the table. The most significant and immediately visible twist is making the leading character a smart, attractive young woman who, with her music writer husband Charlie (Aaron Paul), likes to get loaded every night.
Worse than that, Kate Hannah (Winstead) swigs beer with her morning shower and takes a few swigs from a flask in her car before heading in to teach her first grade class in a Los Angeles school. One particularly hung-over morning, she pukes in front of her students and lies that she’s pregnant, a fiction that reaches the principal (Megan Mullally), who could not be more solicitous.
However, the vice principal, Dave (Nick Offerman), is wise to Kate’s ways and gently proposes that she check out his low-key AA group, which has kept him sober for nine years. Facing up to her problem, Kate joins in and particularly bonds with one warm woman (Octavia Spencer), who has replaced alcohol with baking.
It’s a different story at home, though, as Charlie still partakes of a college lifestyle, going to clubs nightly and hanging with buddies. Abstaining doesn’t register with him at all, causing a rift in outlooks that can’t help but send the marriage south. A subsequent school crisis causes Kate to head for the nearest bar, but then no one said the road wouldn’t be bumpy.
Onscreen throughout, Winstead presents an uncustomary image for a young actress these days: She appears virtually unadorned, seemingly without makeup and with a frumpy wardrobe, decidedly non-Hollywood. Kate is sexy and quick-witted and great fun when drinking, any college boy’s dream. But when the enormity of her problems hits her, she doesn’t hesitate to leave all that behind to become a responsible adult, a concept that blindsides her husband.
The role thus asks Winstead to run the full gamut, from game good-time girl and stimulating teacher to shell-shocked morning-after casualty and adamant survivor. She’s terrific at it all, far surpassing the promise she indicated in Death Proof and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.
Paul is fine in the more limited role of the fair-weather husband, while the standout supporting turn comes from Offerman, who is hilariously dry, droll and understated as a genuinely helpful colleague who cannot help but lapse into extreme inappropriateness.
And here’s another from Film.com:
Smashed is easily the best film I saw at Sundance 2012. How’s that for burying the lead? Where it could have easily caved to melodrama or hysterics, instead Smashed presented a horrifying, touching, and memorable love story. The love between a woman, a man, and alcohol.
Married couple Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul) love to party. The drink in the morning, they drink on the job, and they drink as much as they can at night. Drinking isn’t just a pastime, it’s an all consuming interest. When Kate has a few harrowing experiences such as waking up in an abandoned lot by herself after drinking too much, drunkenly stealing alcohol and an incident at her teaching job, she decides that it might be time to cut back a bit. As she struggles with her new-found sobriety and how it affects her life, she finds that it also begins to drive a wedge into her marriage, as her husband Charlie continues to drink. When we love someone for who they are, what happens when who they are completely changes?
Smashed is subtle, beautiful, and sad. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance runs the gamut from funny to disturbing, and is the finest acting performance I’ve seen in ages. Characters are made, and Kate is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up by the deft hands of Winstead, in a performance that it is a privilege to watch. Nick Offerman is delightful and well-cast as a fellow recovering alcoholic and Vice President at Kate’s school, interested in helping her recover, and Aaron Paul, best known for his work in Breaking Bad, finds himself in another role that requires accurate portrayal of substance abuse problems, and he nails it. Megan Mullally deserves a mention as the principal of the school as well, her kindness and relentless optimism stands up in harsh opposition to Kate’s survivalist instincts.
It’s not often a film about a seemingly heavy subject matter can handle it without going too dark or maudlin, but Smashed is very nearly perfect. The cinematography is excellent and the use of Smog’s song Our Anniversary in the end credits is an inspired choice. Alcoholism is a scary word, but as I watched the film I recognized people I knew. Not as far-gone or unaware as Kate is when she realizes she needs help, but in the friend who casually drives drunk, or the people who need to drink to engage with others. As with any addiction, what starts out harmless enough can spiral out of control, especially when you are surrounded by people who all engage in the exact same behavior.
Not all of Smashed is focused on Kate’s alcoholism, there are more than a few scenes of respite as we begin to hope that perhaps the love between Kate and Charlie is strong enough to survive, but that disease changes people and there are some things you can never come back from.