The films that played the Toronto International Film Festival to great acclaim a little less than two months ago are finally rolling out at theatres all across the city. Out in theatres now from our friends at Mongrel Media is an intense little dramadey about the prices of substance abuse and how addictive something like love can actually be. It’s time to get “Smashed”.
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul
Co-Written & Directed by James Ponsoldt
“Smashed” features a married couple (Winstead and Paul) whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides that enough is enough after a drunken incident where she ends up smoking crack and wants to change her life and get sober as she slowly realizes that she just might be an alcoholic.
On paper, this film does seem like a modern rehashing of films like “Barfly” or “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” but in reality it is actually so much more as it eliminates any soapy melodrama and replaces it with pure emotion equal parts laughter and pain. For his second feature, James Ponsoldt assuredly frames every scene to make it feel important while still managing to stay understated enough to let his actors to take control and immerse in the highs and lows of the emotional ride that they are taking us on, managing to guide his two leads to some absolutely powerful performances while keeping the narrative at exactly the right pace that it needed to be.
As the rock bottom alcoholic Kate Hannah, Mary Elizabeth Winstead really hits it out of the park as we see her world slowly spiral in a variety of directions until she finally hits rock bottom, and even then she is a likable mess of a human being that we end up rooting for because she allows us to see that redeemable glimmer of hope that lets us know that she wants to get better and with any luck the universe will award this powerful performance with a nomination or two around awards season. Aaron Paul as he husband and drinking buddy kept up with her every step of the way as the dynamic of their relationship changed and the more she got her act together, the more they both drifted apart and he embodied the pain of a man losing his best friend who was powerless to stop it to near perfection. The supporting cast featured some incredible dramatic turns from some comedic heavyweights as both Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally were memorable characters in this story of love and redemption that unfolded in front of us with a genuine honesty that isn’t always seen in films today. With Octavia Spencer rounding out the ensemble, nobody was a scene stealer in this film from a cinematic sense but it all works so well because these actors really wore their hearts on their sleeves as they explored these characters.
Ultimately, writer/director James Ponsoldt has done something pretty special here with “Smashed”, as it tackles real issues with heart and humor rather than with blunt histrionics and generic platitudes, making for an experience that not only entertains you, but one that sits with you as well long after the film is over.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Smashed” is now playing at the Cineplex Yonge & Dundas here in downtown Toronto; click here for show times.
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