Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul are both excellent in this low budget comedy drama from director James Ponsoldt. They play a young couple, very much in love, who both spend an incredible amount of their time together getting really drunk. When a series of bad experiences cause Kate (Winstead) to quit drinking, it inevitably causes a rift in her marriage, which seems only surmountable if Charlie (Paul) were to hop on the wagon too. However, he has no intention of doing so, and inevitably the relationship falls apart.
While more bearable, honest and humourous than many other addiction movies, Smashed nevertheless falls into the trap so many American films do when broaching the subject of drinking – that of never pitching the degree of excess at the right level. Perhaps it is just me, but American Cinema seems incapable of depicting “heavy drinking” without it being an insane, uncontrolable shitstorm. Smashed nearly gets it right, and comes far closer than many of its contemporaries, but there is still a slight heavyhandedness to the way the characters’ drinking activities play out that never quite rings true, and ultimately feels a little naive.
That said, Winstead and Paul are both great, there is real chemistry and tenderness between them, and the dialogue is very well written. There’s also an intensely creepy performance from Nick Offerman as Kate’s colleague. The result is one of the better films about alcohol addiction out there, that for a change focuses on characters that we can recognise only too well.