BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2012
11/22/12 at 5:57 AM
When you wake up and drink a beer, it's likely that you have a problem.
When you're a teacher who throws up in front of her elementary school students and tells them you are pregnant, that's a problem.
Waking up on the roof of an abandoned warehouse and wondering why? Problem.
Kate doesn't see these things as a problem. Kate is an alcoholic. She's also a self-described "fun drunk."
Every night is a party, and apparently it has been for a few years of marriage for a young couple whose bond is built on drinking. They socialize with friends, listen to live music and perform karaoke - and alcohol is what ties it all together.
If this story sounds familiar, it should. This movie has been made many times before and quite often better than this product that fits in the after-school special/public service announcement category.
"Smashed" is apparently Mary Elizabeth Winstead's attempt to be seen as a serious dramatic actress, and she just doesn't appear to have the chops for it if this is her best work.
She does have a gift for acerbic comedy and was excellent in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." See that movie and you'll fall hard for the cool chick with the blue hair.
But drama is not her friend. Past performances prove this. "Smashed" confirms this.
Nor does she have an ally in the original script written by director James Ponsoldt, who's not going to make any performer look good with clunkers like "Listen, I don't think I can do this anymore, and I might need help," delivered in Winstead's leaden delivery.
That line could be delivered in so many more organic, original ways, but it's indicative of the product that filmmaker and star are delivering.
Making movies about drunks are cheap unless they offer some fresh insight into this sickness, but that bottle is empty here.
The film takes a few shots at forcing humor to balance the melodrama and staging a few shock-value moments like Winstead urinating on a convenience store floor, but a search for substance comes up dry.
"Smashed" reeks of someone - perhaps who has been drinking? - saying among friends, "Those stories are so crazy, and we have so many of them. ...We should make a movie about them!"
Aaron Paul plays Winstead's husband, a man who does her no favors by continuing to drink while she tries to stop and who berates her for attending 12-step meetings. He is the only person who rises above the script.
I can't say the same for Octavia Spencer as Kate's sponsor or Nick Offerman and his awkward-guy comic relief as a fellow teacher with a crush on Kate. They are usually part of the forced humor.
But Paul, the "Breaking Bad" star who is accustomed to quality writing, and his quietly menacing method of acting don't fit either the material or Winstead's over-the-top style opposite him.
There's a scene in which Tulsa native Mary Kay Place shows up to play Kate's estranged mom, and all I could think in watching is that Winstead should be taking notes on how naturalistic acting is accomplished.
It's sobering to realize that the rest of "Smashed" isn't anywhere near as good as this moment.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead,
Aaron Paul, Octavia
Spencer, Nick Offerman,
Megan Mullally, Mary Kay
1 hour, 25
R (alcohol abuse,
language, some sexual
content, brief drug use)
(on a scale of
zero to four stars)
Original Print Headline: 'Smashed' flops
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (left) and Octavia Spencer star in "Smashed." Courtesy