Oana Marian / Sony Pictures Classics

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars with Aaron Paul in "Smashed."

Movie Review: Winstead breaks out in a taut 'Smashed'

Published: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 15TICKET

The act of going out there as an unknown and coming back a star is the time-honored showbiz fantasy, and if there's any justice that is about to come true for Mary Elizabeth Winstead on the basis of "Smashed."

Winstead has been a winning presence on screen for the past seven or eight years, with small to medium roles in movies such as "Bobby" and "Live Free or Die Hard." But she hasn't had a chance to bat with the bases loaded until now.

She plays a high-spirited young married woman, whose entire relationship with her husband is founded on getting bombed every night. That's her recreation and a big part of her identity, and in the early going, the nonstop party looks like lots of fun. But then the drinking starts affecting her job (as a teacher) and twice she wakes up on the street.

She realizes it's time to get help.

"Smashed" is essentially about what happens when one spouse decides to get sober and the other is still drinking. The dynamic is complicated by the fact that, though the husband does drink too much, it's the wife who has the more desperate problem.

He should stop, but she absolutely must stop, and stop now.

If there is a weakness to the movie, it's that the audience will inevitably end up caring more about the woman's individual fate than about a marriage that never looks like much to begin with. But none of that takes away from Winstead, who is remarkable in a series of complex and difficult scenes – being drunk, being high on crack (very different from being drunk), covering up at work, painfully unburdening herself at an Alcoholic's Anonymous meeting, and hiding and giving in to her growing disdain for her husband.

Director James Ponsoldt knows what his job is here. He keeps the camera on his lead actress and doesn't cut away.

For Winstead, "Smashed" is the path to great things.


★ ★ ★

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul

Director: James Ponsoldt

81 minutes

Rated R (drugs, alcohol, sex, profanity, adult themes)

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