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Susan Granger's review of 'Smashed'

Published 9:28 am, Sunday, November 11, 2012
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Alcohol abuse is a huge problem in America today, and young people -- ages 18 to 29 -- have the highest rates of past year alcohol abuse and dependence. So it shouldn't come as such a surprise that a hard-working Los Angeles elementary school teacher starts her day chugging a beer and takes a hefty swig from a flask before she goes into the classroom. But it does.

Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul from TV's "Breaking Bad") are a young married couple who share a love of music and booze. But Kate drinks far too much; sometimes she even wets the bed. Since their nightly ritual involves drinking and driving, it seems inevitable that Kate occasionally awakens in the gutter. One day, while suffering from a severe hangover, she vomits in her classroom. Her first-graders think that she's pregnant, a story that she confirms when confronted by the principal, Patricia Barnes (Megan Mullally), who subsequently embarrasses Kate with a surprise baby shower. But the vice principal, Dave Davies (Nick Offerman from TV's "Parks and Recreation"), is onto Kate's real problem and suggests that she accompany him to an AA meeting, where she takes an immediate liking to Jenny (Octavia Spencer from "The Help"), who becomes her empathetic sponsor. None of this sits well with husband Charlie, who realizes he's lost his hard-partying partner. And a drive to Arrowhead to visit Kate's bitter, estranged mother, Rochelle (Mary Kay Place), doesn't help Kate's road to sobriety, particularly as Rochelle immediately mixes the requisite Bloody Marys.

Written by Susan Burke and director James Pensoldt, it's a standard, heavy-weight drama about the self-destructive effects of alcohol abuse, reminiscent but never as good as "The Days of Wine and Roses." Carrying the picture, Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") delivers a matter-of-fact performance that never dips into melodrama, even when she warbles in a karaoke bar or tipsily rides her bicycle.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Smashed" is a straightforward 5, telling it like it is.