It's always a pleasure to see an actor come of age. And that’s exactly what happens to Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Smashed .
The Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World star has yet to truly earn her dramatic spurs - until now.
Winstead stars as Kate, a primary school teacher with a drinking problem. This is a woman who wakes up, having wet the bed, and then sips from a half-drunk beer bottle while she’s in the shower.
Her husband, Charlie (Aaron Paul), likes to booze too; so do all their friends. But when Kate goes to school, then vomits in front of her class, things start to go awry - not least when she foolishly covers up by claiming she’s pregnant.
The next night, she helps a female barfly out with a lift, then winds up downtown smoking crack.
Even urinating in a store because her booze-addled bladder is so weak, Kate realises she needs to quit drinking - a decision aided by her school’s vice principal, Mr. Davies (Nick Offerman), who is nine years drink-free, and Jenny ( The Help ’s Octavia Spencer), a sponsor he introduces her to.
Of course, the road to sobriety is strewn with difficulties - not least that Charlie doesn’t want to stop.
Like Blue Valentine crossed with an AA meeting, Smashed is really a study of the disintegration of a marriage, perfectly realised by Winstead and Breaking Bad ’s Paul.
But running at 85 minutes, the script feels threadbare, like a first draft that really needs a proper third-act.
Doubtless, anyone’s who struggled with alcohol addiction will recognise a lot of truth.
Writer/director James Ponsoldt - whose debut feature, 2006’s Off The Black , saw Nick Nolte play a chronic alcoholic - certainly achieves a high-strung realism here.
But with a story that feels like a one-hour drama stretched to breaking point, Smashed is never the smash you might hope for.
Two fine performances - particularly from an unhinged Winstead - almost elevate Smashed to greatness. But an under-worked script leaves you feeling groggy and bleary-eyed by the end.