Sundance review: "Smashed"
Published: January 23, 2012 12:26AM
Updated: January 23, 2012 10:03AM
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Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul play married alcoholics in "Smashed." Oana Marian | Sony Pictures Classics

“Smashed”

U.S. Dramatic

*** ½ (three and a half stars)

This drama of alcoholism and its aftermath follows a long movie tradition – “The Lost Weekend,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Clean and Sober,” etc. – and brings a fresh, vibrant approach to it. Kate Hannah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her husband Charlie (Aaron Paul) are good-time drinkers, but Kate's alcohol-fueled behavior starts getting scary. When she throws up in front of the first-grade class she teaches, her school's vice-principal (Nick Offerman) suggests she try AA. Soon she's taking the first steps toward sobriety, which leads to conflict with the still-drinking Charlie. The script, by director James Ponsoldt and co-writer Susan Burke (based on her own experiences with sobriety), is a firm launching pad for strong, authentic performances by Paul, Offerman, Megan Mullally (as Kate's school principal) and Octavia Spencer (as Kate's AA sponsor). But Winstead particularly shines, finding both laughter and tears in Kate's rocky road to sobriety.

-- Sean P. Means

“Smashed” screens again: