By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
The familiar story of one person’s struggle back from the haze of compulsive drinking is fluffed up for today’s more casual generation in “Smashed.”
Instead of a responsible business executive ruining his life and shattering his picture-perfect family of obedient wife and two smart kids in the suburbs, we get a high-energy elementary school teacher with no children who goes out drinking every night.
Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is the teacher, enabled in her pursuit of those alcoholic highs by her wealthy layabout husband Charlie (Aaron Paul) who also loves to self-medicate with top shelf booze.
In for one compelling scene is Mary Kay Place as Kate’s mother, who enjoys a good nip herself at every opportunity. Several times in the dialogue we are warned that pregnant mothers should never drink – the way Kate’s mom did.
Alcoholics Anonymous with its awkward group meetings and public confessions is still the hero.
So we go along amiably enough in the beginning, through the party sequences where Kate and Charlie sing bad karaoke in an accommodating neighborhood beer joint then drunkenly try to ride their bikes home, rarely able to stay in the bike lane.
Once Kate accepts that she’s an alcoholic, we watch her struggle back from addiction by jumping through the usual hoops.
What makes “Smashed” a little better than most of these films is that there is no preaching, and a very big point is made that when an alcoholic tries to “dry out,” all of her booze friends feel threatened and try to sabotage her efforts.
Among the final scenes is the reminder that even though a former alcoholic might be sober for several months, those seductive memories of a glowing alcohol buzz never go away.