Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead has maintained a steady stream of notable genre work for many years and has shown herself to be a very good actress with enough charisma and enthusiasm to help carry genre gems like “Sky High” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” On the flipside, Winstead has also garnered a huge fan base (me included) thanks to her model work and her incredible beauty and sex appeal. With “Smashed” Ms. Winstead seems intent to not only show that she’s much more than a pretty face, but proves to her audience that she’s so much more than a passable actress. Her performance in “Smashed” is Oscar worthy.
It’s a shame since Winstead was passed over in what is probably her best performance to date, in where she dispenses of any and all sexual appeal to portray a really devastating character that is at a constant crossroads. Winstead is immense in this picture, a true force of nature who embodies so many complexities and demons that make her this perpetually broken protagonist. Winstead is remarkable as this unbalanced alcoholic who walks around barely awake with dark circles under her eyes and struggles to maintain herself during days when she teaches grade school. As a teacher she’s a very charismatic and lovable entity, but her worlds collide when she doubles over vomiting in front her entire class and feeds them an excuse that will snowball more than she realizes.
Outside of the classroom, she’s a literal train wreck who seeks that high she gains from alcohol. And when she can’t obtain it, she lashes out like a spoiled child. In one of the more shocking moments, Kate goes ballistic when a local store owner refuses to sell her a body of vodka, causing her to lose all control of her functions much to his shock. Though Kate is indeed a very destructive and selfish woman, “Smashed” examines her relationship with husband Charlie (Aaron Paul) who not only seems to ignore her evident addiction, but enables her. When she reveals she smoked crack for no reason, he laughs it off, and often times doesn’t seem to mind when she’s a drunken buffoon. “Smashed” isn’t just about the perils of addiction, but how destructive and absolutely damaging some relationships can be.
There is something clearly wrong with Charlie’s refusal to see what could potentially destroy Kate’s life, while Kate forms a sense of clarity from her forced AA meetings. And it threatens to destroy the relationship she and Charlie have formed that has been built on a heavy formula of complacency, co-dependency, and enabling. Kate has every chance to break free and make something of herself, but in reality do people ever break free from their vicious cycles that keep dropping them in to pain and misery? “Smashed” is a compelling and excellent film about uncertainties and the nigh endless pitfalls life presents us with. Some of us make it, and some of us will just stumble again and again.