‘It’s the drinking that leads to every terrible thing that I do…’
Drinking culture is a weird thing. Many of my favourite pop culture touchstones are based around drinking. The music of Alkaline Trio and Tom Waits, TV shows like Horace and Pete and Early Doors, the works of Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski. All magnificent, and yet all of them glorify drinking culture in one way or another. Having spent almost a decade living and working in pubs, it’s safe to say, that I love a drink. And I love pubs. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen the dark side of the bottle. Indeed, as I write this I am nursing a mild hangover that is threatening to spill over into a full blown breakdown, and yet in a week or so, I’ll do it all over again.
All of which brings us onto Smashed…
Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul) enjoy a marriage based almost exclusively on a mutual love for alcohol. When Kate enlists the help of AA veterans Dave (Nick Offerman) and Jenny (Octavia Spencer), her newfound sobriety begins to clash with her husband’s continued drinking.
Smashed makes no attempt to glamourise or demonise drinking culture, instead being content to merely document a life based around drinking in all its glory and disgrace. Kate has some shudderingly depressing lows, but writer/director James Ponsoldt also never shies away from the universal truth that often, drinking is fun. The problem of course is that all of us walk that tightrope between social lubrication and problem drinking. There is a little bit of Kate in all of us.
Speaking of which, Mary Winstead is quietly brilliant here, further proof that she is one of her generation’s most underrated actresses. She shares an authentic chemistry with Aaron Paul, whose subdued and generous performance ensures the spotlight never strays too far from Kate and her story.
Like every vice, drinking is fun until it’s not. Gambling is fun until its not. Eating loads of KFC is fun until… heck that’s always fun, but the point stands. All of us sit on the precipice of bad decisions and bad luck leading to depression, anxiety and alcoholism. Smashed takes us on that journey and does so in a way that is both touching and relatable.
Maybe don’t watch it hungover though…