Smashed (15)


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The Independent Culture

Ever since Ray Milland staggered down Third Avenue trying to pawn his typewriter in The Lost Weekend, alcoholism has been a pet subject of the Hollywood issue movie.

What impresses about James Ponsoldt's drama is the matter-of-fact way it charts one couple's implosion through drink. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Kate, a junior school teacher who's let her habit get out of hand: having thrown up in front of a classroom of pupils she decides to get help at AA.

Her husband Charlie (Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad) tries to be sympathetic, but his reluctance to go sober will have consequences. Winstead's performance is a stand-out, flicking through bewilderment, shame and regret on her way towards a kind of salvation – though even that is honestly tinged with ambivalence: "I'm so thankful for this boring new life of mine," she tells her group.

Ponsoldt and his co-writer Susan Burke also pull off something very few films do nowadays – a good ending.