Directed By: James Ponsoldt

Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally

Each and every member of the STMR team can hold his or her liquor, so we have no problem whatsoever knocking back some drinks when a film calls for it.  Alcohol can help overcome any bad movie.  However, I do realize that everyone who frequents the site may not be so responsible in their drinking, and I've discovered just the right flick for them.  James Ponsoldt's Smashed takes a close look at the dangerous side of alcohol and the pitfalls of having way too much to drink.

Kate Hannah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has a serious drinking problem, and she's spinning out of control.  After wild nights of drinking with her husband Charlie (Aaron Paul), she ends up urinating in public, stealing wine, and even smoking crack.  It just so happens that she's an elementary school teacher.  After one wild night, she has a serious hangover and tosses her cookies in front of her young students.  She lies to her kids and fellow faculty members and tells them that she's pregnant.  However, Vice Principal Dave Davies (Nick Offerman) recognizes a fellow alcoholic and invites Kate to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting.  There, he offers her advice for getting sober and helps her find a sponsor in Jenny (Octavia Spencer) and get on the long road to recovery.

Smashed is an interesting look at the road from alcoholism to sobriety.  Director James Ponsoldt really focuses on the social impact of sobering up.  As a drunk, Kate has some really wild nights out with friends, family, and hobos.  That being said, Kate claims to have a boring new life when she's sober.  Though she's grateful for it, it has consequences.  Kate's spending more time at home alone.  She’s spending a lot less time with her still-drinking husband Charlie.  She's even spending a lot more time with her somewhat sketchy vice principal. 

While Ponsoldt covers the social impact of sobriety quite well with all these plot elements, he forgets one major stopping point on the road to recovery — withdrawal.  Kate never shows any signs of withdrawal.  She never goes through anything that shows she's physically struggling with the lack of alcohol in her life.  She just goes from being smashed to sober, and this is completely unrealistic for a heavy drinker like Kate.  Ponsoldt really drops the ball in this respect.

In my book, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has made a 180º turn this year.  Having given one of the worst performances of the year in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I am completely stunned by her incredible performance in Smashed.  She really showcases her range as an actress in this flick.  In one scene, she can give us a sad portrait of a drunk that is wildly out of control.  In another, she's a woman just trying to deal with the struggles of being sober and normal.  It's like she's playing two different characters — the crazy Kate and the sane one.   Either way, Winstead has moved up a few notches and established herself in a different class of actresses with this performance.

The supporting cast really does a great job as well.  The standouts are Nick Offerman and Octavia Spencer.  Offerman gives us one entertaining character as Vice Principal Davies.  While he is a source of moral support throughout most of the film, his preference for the "moist" things in life tends to get him in trouble.  As Kate's AA sponsor Jenny, Octavia Spencer brings equal doses of wisdom and humor to the film.  She's got plenty of sad stories about her own alcoholism.  She has even found a replacement for spirits in her life — jelly doughnuts.

Smashed is definitely an enjoyable film that takes an interesting look at the road to sobriety and what it often means for recovering alcoholics.  Though director James Ponsoldt makes a couple of missteps in depicting this journey, the strong performances by Winstead and her supporting cast members more than make up for this.  Smashed gets a 0.03% rating.  For those of you who can handle it, have a few wine coolers with this one.