Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Smashed, dir. James Ponsoldt, wr. James Ponsoldt, Susan Burke, st. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally

Kate Hannah (Winstead) lives with her husband Charlie (Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) in a perpetual fug of intoxication and weakened bladder control. He's moneyed via his parents and seemingly has no higher interests than Pilsner and Playstation. Kate however, does work, as an engaging elementary school teacher under principal Barnes (Mullally). When she comes in one morning, horribly hungover, she blames her condition on a fictional pregnancy, and soon finds herself too swept along with the tide of affection and support from her boss (herself infertile) to come clean. Ponsoldt's film is more concerned with sobriety and AA as a slow lifting of the veil on a previous wrecking-ball existence as opposed to an instant, one-stop montage-heavy cure-all. Time spent sober for Kate allows surveillance of a wasted life and time spent rebuilding a career and packing away destructive relationships. In many ways it's the beginning of the disease. Winstead is a credible drunk, presenting the same equable calm that made Ramona Flowers so cool and Dr. Kate Lloyd such a believable unflappable accidental heroine. When she does let rip - in late-night inebriation or post-meeting solemn reflection - it's real and mid-powered rather than showy and full-on. There's not much else on offer here save for the central Kate-centric storyline, and Mullally and Offerman (playing one of Kate's colleagues) distract - well known faces in TV comedy as they are - inhibiting total absorption into their narratives. Smashed then packs a punch, but you can't shake the feeling time is called before it has a chance to really get going.