Smashed Blu-ray Review
Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, THE THING) and Charlie (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad) are a young married couple who spend almost their entire time drinking alcohol. When Kate wakes up having wet the bed, neither seem to bat an eye. After a couple of drinks in the parking lot before teaching her elementary class, Kate throws up in front of her students. To hide her problem, she claims her nasty hangover byproduct is the result from being pregnant. The assistant principal happens to be an eight-year sober recovering alcoholic who invites Kate to a meeting. After a number of excessive dangerous results from her binge drinking, stealing alcohol, publicly urinating in a convenient store and waking up under a bridge to name a few, Kate accepts the invitation. From there she meets her sponsor (Octavia Spencer, THE HELP), and tries her best at living a sober life. But that task becomes continually difficult as her life is surrounded by enablers, particularly from the man that she loves.
SMASHED may sound like the typical alcoholic story of things going from bad to worse to ending happily ever after. However, SMASHED isn’t afraid to magnify all the problems that still arise when becoming sober. A specific line in the film where Kate expresses her feelings during an AA meeting about the complete falsehood of the saying, “My worst day sober is better than my best day drunk” describes what the film is attempting to showcase perfectly. Sure life is better from being sober because you are choosing to live but things still come with a price. Kate’s job and marriage are still in jeopardy and the film does a nice job promoting sobriety but showing the difficulties.
Writer and Director James Ponsoldt should be commended for his small but poignant film. He strikes a touching chord by creating believable and likable characters within an authentic environment. One of his greatest strengths is in his casting. Real life husband and wife duo Megan Mullally (Will and Grace) and Nick Offerman (the manly mustache wearing Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec) do a fantastic job in their respective roles. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer alway manages to bring heart and gravity to any character she plays no matter how small the role.
But the film is really about the relationship between Kate and Charlie and how their bond is strained when one chooses to become sober. Whether it be bicycling together drunk or arguing about cake soberly, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul display amazing chemistry. Winstead is particularly good as she confronts an array of emotions and I suspect we will be seeing much more of her in the future.
Watching drunk people on screen continue to make stupid decisions is nearly as obnoxious as seeing it in person. SMASHED walks a very thin line of becoming monotonous early on. Sometimes the film stumbles through a few convenient plot devices and questionable character choices that lack reason just to create obstacles to drive the story, but these are minimal missteps. Overall, SMASHED is an affective look at the hardships to becoming sober. Perhaps it could have delved a little deeper but I think it achieves an interesting and thought-provoking film with a lot of great elements.
Video: (MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p, 2.39:1) A great looking picture that utilizes hand held camera techniques and different times of day to achieve the intimacy, sadness and chaos that comes with being an alcoholic.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio mixing is terrifically put together as everyone is heard clearly throughout with minimal outside sound.
Commentary with Director James Ponsoldt & Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead: The two clearly enjoy working together and have a true passion about SMASHED. They have a very chummy friendship as they talk light-heartedly about making the picture and give their thoughts about the fun and mishaps throughout.
Making Smashed (12:23): A fun little making of featurette with some behind the scenes shots of a few scenes not aired and many interviews from the entire cast and director.
Toronto Film Festival Red Carpet and Q&A (14:45): James Ponsoldt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Octavia Spencer all answer a few questions from the audience after a screening. Some of it’s kind of generic but still a bit insightful and fun to see the people involved talk about SMASHED.
Deleted Scenes (10:25): Six scenes that were rightfully cut due to being either filler or repetitive within the confines of the story.