A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Smashed is a gritty drama about a woman who's an alcoholic and tries to stop drinking. (Her husband is also a heavy drinker, and he doesn't stop.) Though the main character's alcoholism is really only shown during the movie's first third, it's intense, and the horrifying side effects of her drinking start to outweigh whatever fun she's having. She also smokes crack in one scene. Language is the movie's other big issue, with several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch." There's no physical violence but expect lots of shouting and arguing; there's no nudity, but viewers see a married couple kissing and initiating sex with one another. There's also a failed attempt at sex. Overall, this is a well-made cautionary tale with hope as well as harshness, and it could be a good way for teens to learn empathy for people facing addiction.
What's the story?
Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a schoolteacher, happily married to Charlie (Aaron Paul), a freelance journalist. They spend their free time drinking and laughing. Unfortunately, Kate's drinking begins to get out of hand. She starts passing out and waking up in strange places, wets the bed, throws up at work, and even smokes crack. So she decides it's time to stop, and she starts attending AA meetings. Unfortunately, being sober doesn't solve all her problems. She tries to make up for a lie she told at work and loses her job. Even worse, Charlie isn't interested in quitting his drinking, and their relationship begins to suffer. Can Kate keep up her treatment amid so many roadblocks and so much misfortune?
Is it any good?
Winstead, who has been cast as a token cute girl in many mainstream movies, clearly jumped at the chance to show off her acting chops in this well-made independent movie. She soars during her scenes of intoxication and suffers during her scenes of sobriety. She makes her struggle very human, making it easy to empathize with her troubles. The rest of the cast, including Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer from The Help, offers strong support.
SMASHED director and co-writer James Ponsoldt keeps up a good pace and refuses to let the material get too heavy. He avoids turning Alcoholism (with a capital "A") into the main subject. He focuses on the characters and their slip ups, jokes, frustrations, and all the imperfections that make up a person. Moreover, his visual style appears lived-in, slightly worn, and comfortable, rather than pristine or overly designed. Smashed is a good pick even for people who tend to avoid issue movies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Smashed portrays alcoholism. Do you think it's realistic? What impact does seeing the consequences Kate faces have on you as a viewer?
At one point, Kate explains that she used to be fat, but that she lost weight when she started drinking. In what ways is this unhealthy? What does it have to do with Kate's body image?
- In theaters: October 12, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: March 12, 2013
- Cast: Aaron Paul, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Octavia Spencer
- Director: James Ponsoldt
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: alcohol abuse, language, some sexual content and brief drug use