I’ve read countless novels, autobiographies and seen films that tackle the idea of alcoholism- or on a more general scale- addiction. Whilst it seem likes a hard-hitting and depressing theme for a film or book it is in fact the perfect accompaniment to anything artistic. Addiction is often somehow romanticised and becomes less about drugs or alcohol and more about looking for something more- often creating a relatable narrative for everyone- even if you haven’t ever drank yourself into oblivion you can undoubtedly share the feeling in one way or another of searching for more from life or trying to escape reality.


There is something deeply human and touching about seeing someone’s journey through addiction, which is why I thoroughly enjoyed Smashed, directed by James Ponsoldt.


Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul) are a young married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of music, laughter and drinking…especially the drinking. They are madly in love, spending idyllic evenings getting drunk, cycling home [not the best idea after a few whiskeys] and collapsing into bed together. For a moment I yearned for a relationship like theirs- laughter, affection and gallons of frozen margaritas- why isn’t every relationship filled with these things?


But, Kate’s drinking leads her to dangerous places and her job as a teacher is put into jeopardy so she joins an AA group. With the help of her friend and sponsor Jenny, and the vice principal at her school, the awkward, but well intentioned and recovering addict himself [who recruited all these wino teachers!?] Mr. Davies, Kate takes steps toward improving her health and life. Sobriety doesn’t fix things as she had anticipated. Her new lifestyle brings to the surface a troubling relationship with her mother, facing the lies she’s told her employer and calls into question whether or not her relationship with Charlie is built on love or is just a boozy diversion from adulthood.


Whilst at times the plot felt rushed- the realisation of an addiction, then the consequential rehab and attempt at changing old habits is pretty swift, which perhaps takes away from the real-life edge that the film has- it still captured my attention until the end. I wanted to see a little more demise or struggle from the female protagonist for the journey to be truly believable. Plus, her husband is oblivious to her alcoholism. He drinks a lot too but appears in control of it to a certain extent. Yet Kate drinks to the point of unconsciousness, making bad decisions along the way, but its only when she relapses that her husband shows any kind of concern. 


Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a convincing and unmissable performance. She has hangover-chic mastered, making her compelling to watch on screen. The willowy, girl-next-door cute faced Kate who is a sweeter than thou primary school teacher is a refreshing character profile for an alcoholic. More often than not the troubled character would probably be a struggling male writer who smokes and drinks a little too much bourbon but is never really sick just a little miserable. Smashed is great because it throws addiction into the centre of suburban, middle class life.


As mentioned at the beginning, addiction is obviously a theme here due to Kate’s alcoholism, however, what this film is really about is commitment. Addiction narratives are always intertwined with love and philosophy- often with the protagonist using substances as a means to distract from reality- and this is beautifully portrayed in Smashed.

About The Author

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.