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.