Smashed

Wouldn’t Smashed have made a better January movie where you could see it following a desperate New Year’s resolution designed to improve your personal habits?

Rating: Cannot be seen anywhere while using alcohol and still hang on to your self respect.

SmashedLike it or not, the annual holiday season is dominated by the consumption of alcohol. You name it, be it beer, wine, vodka, scotch, bourbon or champagne, it is constantly available. In December, beggars can finally find a time to be choosers, and getting toasted is a clever way to dance with the devil while honoring the birth of his beloved antagonist.

Which makes it more incomprehensible that the movie Smashed would be released here in Indianapolis weeks before Christmas. After all, most of us are wrestling with enough guilt to avoid seeing a film about a young married couple who are paying the price for their profound addiction to alcohol.

As sad as this is to say, Smashed gives the whole story of alcohol abuse a bad name. Everyone is treated poorly, from those approaching alcohol like their lifeline to enjoyment to those in AA who are trying to cope with their problems.Put another way, if your employer will fire you on the spot when you admit your problem with alcohol, and your principal sponsor at AA quickly tries to lure you to bed, why not just get loaded and say, “The hell with it.”

However, before drifting too far into the wretched world of criticism, let me say that there is a sparkling performance given by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Here, she plays Kate Hannah, a first grade teacher of considerable talent, who enjoys intellectually toying with her young students. While her problem, as expected, is her devotion to alcohol, as well as the occasional use of drugs, she and her husband (Aaron Paul) are a strange pair. They appear to have one common bond, namely the desire to get loaded as quickly as possible each night.

As an example, the movie begins with her yelling at her husband in bed for laying on her alarm, while he points out that she has again wet the bed. Her scene in the shower involves her reaching around the wall to grab a half-empty beer, which is soon followed by knocking down whiskey left in a flask that she keeps in the glove compartment of her car. Regardless, you kind of anticipate that this poor soul is not going to be voted Teacher of the Year.

What happens next goes from bad to worse. Suffice it to say that she
frequently finds herself sleeping alone in some unknown park or dingy part of town, and it is evident to everyone other than her husband that this poor girl is in need of help.

Regrettably, the movie loses its nasty edge when Kate begins appearing at AA meetings. While she gets no support from the principal of the school,here played by Megan Mullally, her own husband, as well as mother, are little better. Everyone in Kate’s world appears to view rehab as a sign of weakness.

The one saving grace of Smashed is the performance of last year’s supporting actress Oscar winner, Octavia Spencer, here playing the one likeable person who befriends Kate at AA. A woman who makes no excuses for her mistakes in life, she now has righted herself as a chef who runs a small catering service. She is both funny and outgoing, and tragically is the only real symbol of compassion in the entire film.

I should note that I saw this film at the Keystone Landmark Art Cinema here in Indy, which is associated with a connected bar. Before each film, an employee of the theater usually addresses the audience, reminding them of the existence of the bar and the fact that you are allowed to take alcohol into any of the available theaters.

In any event, when I was buying my ticket for Smashed, I asked the young female employee, “Are you really going to have someone come into the theater and encourage the audience to drink alcohol in a film dealing with the harsh consequences of alcoholism?” She laughed and said, “I don’t really know.”

As expected, no one appeared, which was bizarrely gratifying. Regardless,if you are determined to see this movie, then I can only advise you to leave your Jack Daniels and crack pipe at home.