Smashed [Blu-Ray] James Ponsoldt

Smashed [Blu-Ray] James Ponsoldt
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Grade-school teacher Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and husband Charlie (Aaron Paul) like to have a good time. They get drunk and sing karaoke; they get drunk and play pool; they get drunk and ride bikes; they get drunk and play croquet; they get drunk and do just about everything. While this lifestyle has sustained the relationship through most of their 20s, an in-classroom vomit demonstration and a drunken decision to smoke a little crack leave Kate scared shitless, realizing that what used to be funny is now just reckless and embarrassing. Unlike most movies about people with addiction, James Ponsoldt's debut feature, Smashed, isn't preoccupied with morality and forced didactics. Ponsoldt is more concentrated on the characters and how relationships change when emotional growth and shifting values find them in different mental spaces. Kate eventually decides to go to AA, minus Charlie, leaving him to drink his days away without imposing a great deal of judgment on him for doing so. But more than the mere plot machinations, where we get some context on Kate's background — she was raised by an alcoholic single mother (Mary Kay Place) — and a faux-pregnancy white lie at school that blows up in her face, the intensity and raw emotion stem from the acting. Every scene has an improvisational naturalism that makes the story feel like it's documenting reality. Even actors playing drunk don't fall into clichés, instead channelling the exaggerated, repressed elements of their sober selves, losing inhibitions and succumbing to base instincts. While every member of the cast brings complexity, humour, flaws and weaknesses to their respective roles, it's Winstead's disturbingly real portrayal of a woman trying to change herself, despite being surrounded by drunkards and partiers that offer no support, which steals the film. Her transformation comes from within, even though she is very present with those around her, communicating her feelings via reaction and contemplation. Because of this, we're invested in her journey and resultantly feel the same disappointments she suffers while dealing with hypocrisy (horny AA sponsors) and emotional limitations (Charlie's continued stagnation). Few films are able to capture the essence of their subject in the way Smashed does, which is a remarkable achievement on the part of Ponsoldt, one he managed to recapture with his even more powerful character drama, The Spectacular Now. A "Making of" is included with the Blu-Ray that talks about the organic, improvisational nature of shooting, as well as a commentary track with Ponsoldt and Winstead. (Sony)