Smashed

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Smashed Movie Poster Image
Intense alcoholism study shows difficulties of recovery.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

age 2+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Smashed has the complicated, difficult message that if an alcoholic quits drinking, the rest of his or her life might not automatically be improved. In fact, things could get worse. But the main character continues to struggle and look forward, in spite of much misfortune.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a chronic alcoholic. She struggles to overcome this addiction and sometimes stumbles in the midst of continuing obstacles and misfortune. She tries to correct her past behavior, including admitting a lie, though it costs her a job. She could provide an opportunity for teens to learn about the struggles and hardships of alcoholism, and she could provide a character to empathize with.

Violence

Characters fight and shout at one another, but no hitting or physical violence is shown.

Sex

No nudity is shown, but a married couple is shown kissing and initiating sex with each other. One attempt at sex is thwarted because a drunken lover keeps falling asleep. In a brutal scene, a violently drunk woman tries to initiate sex with her husband.

Language

Strong language throughout, including many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as "a--hole," "ass," "bitch," "damn," and "oh my God."

Consumerism

McDonald's is shown and mentioned. The main character explains how, when they were poor, her mother used to stock up on McDonald's hamburgers and freeze them. Later, viewers see that the mother still does this; she thaws out a plate of burgers to serve to guests.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Chronic alcoholism is the movie's main subject. The main character drives drunk, gets violently angry with others, passes out and wakes up in strange places, urinates in her bed and on the floor, and throws up in front of a classroom full of children. She drinks upon waking up in the morning and hunts for last sips of alcohol in a table full of empty bottles. She's shown to be unable to stop drinking once she starts. In one scene, another woman goads her into smoking crack. At about the one-third point, the character realizes she has a problem and starts attending AA meetings. She falls off the wagon once.

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.

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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?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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