Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul in SMASHED (Sony Pictures Classics)

Directed by James Ponsoldt
Produced by Jonathan Schwartz, Andrea Sperling & Jennifer Cochis
Written by Ponsoldt & Susan Burke
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
USA. 80 min. Not rated
With Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Kay Place & Octavia Spencer

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and recent Emmy Award-Winner Aaron Paul give remarkable performances as a married couple in Smashed. The film itself is, in true indie fashion, somewhat small. The plot is basic: Winstead’s character, Kate has become sick of the alcohol-infused lifestyle her and her husband Charlie partake in every night. Her realization for change does not coincide with an epiphany from Charlie, who keeps drinking. As the film progresses, the story follows the end of an addiction while also focusing on a marriage that collapses because one person makes a life-altering decision.

While Charlie works at home as a writer, Kate teaches elementary-level kids at a local school. After a night of drinking, Kate cannot keep it together enough to stop from throwing up in front of her class. In a frantic attempt to give a reasonable explanation to her students, Kate lies and tells them she is pregnant. The lie escalates, and this is just the first in a series of incidences, including smoking crack and falling asleep on the side of the road, that forces Kate to realize she needs more than a little help. At the suggestion of a colleague who is also a recovering addict, Mr. Davies (Nick Offerman), Kate decides to attend an AA meeting.

The film has a small and wonderful supporting cast. Aside from the sweet and droll Offerman, his real-life wife, Megan Mullally, plays Principal Barnes, who is obsessed with asking Kate about her pregnancy. Recent Oscar winner Octavia Spencer has a role as Kate’s AA sponsor, and Mary Kay Place makes a great cameo as Kate’s mother, who clearly has substance abuse problems of her own.

Though this is really Kate’s story, Smashed does a wonderful job of shedding light, with humor and a great sincerity, on a marriage falling apart under the weight of her sobriety. Not only does Charlie continue to drink, but he feels threatened by AA. As it becomes clear their marriage relied heavily on their mutual love of drinking, Charlie realizes Kate is becoming a different person. It works the same for Kate, who suddenly can’t stand dealing with Charlie’s drinking while she remains sober.

As stated earlier, the film has a small feel to it; you really become immersed in Kate’s world and do not see a wider view of what’s going on elsewhere. The shaky hand-held camerawork helps to force the audience to spiral up and down with Kate’s highs and lows. Smashed also has a realistic, gritty feel in the way Kate and Charlie’s home looks disheveled and how Kate recycles her wardrobe throughout the film. There is no glamour here, and that, combined with the simplicity of the story, allows for the performances to take center stage.