Saturday, November 3, 2012
November is a great month to be a film critic. The best films of the year are released in the fourth quarter and, if you're lucky, you belong to a film critics association and get sent screeners for awards consideration. Many of these I've seen already, and many I would have seen once they are released, but the best surprises are the gems that you may have overlooked. 'Smashed' is one of those gems.
The story is pretty standard and as old as time itself. It's about alcoholism and how it can take over your life. Yeah, yeah, we know. But this is the second film this week about alcoholism that has been a wonderful surprise (with 'Flight' being the other).
Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as a woman who seems to have a great life. She has a loving husband, played by Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, and a great job teaching first grade, with caring coworkers played by 'Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman and 'Will & Grace's Megan Mullally. And everyone really shines here. It's a great choice to show range for the talented supporting cast, particularly Paul, but also Offerman, Mullally, and Octavia Spencer. But it's Winstead who anchors the film perfectly. Honestly, I wasn't aware of her before, but looking at IMDB, few people have had worse bodies of work. ('The Thing', 'Final Destination 3', 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World', and 'Live Free or Die Hard?!?) Her filmography reads like a list of movies you should avoid at all costs. Yet I mean no offense to Ms. Winstead. Frankly, I don't remember her from any of those and don't blame her for them all being terrible. Here, she gives one of the most engaging performances I've seen all year. I'm now a fan. I'll strongly consider her for the Critics Choice Movie Awards of which I am a voter, and I hope this is the beginning of a long line of great roles for her.
Writer/Director James Ponsoldt should be proud of himself for making a flawless film. And you should see it.