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Alcoholic's struggles in 'Smashed' handled smoothly

Smashed (R) (85 min.) — Alcoholism and the movies go together like gin and tonic, with recurring lost weekends of wine and roses enabling actors to shine. James Ponsoldt's Smashed is no different, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead's portrayal of a grudgingly recovering drunk leading the way.

Winstead plays Kate Hannah, an elementary school teacher whose turning point toward sobriety begins with a workplace lie. Kate drank herself silly again with her husband Charlie (Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul), showed up for work with a hangover and covered it up by claiming she's pregnant. Guilt leads Kate to Alcoholics Anonymous and decision time with Charlie, who has no intention of joining her.

It's a familiar, straightforward story, carried from start to finish by Winstead, who makes Kate an interesting study in contradictions. She's enthusiastic in the classroom, cajoling students into learning but maybe that's the booze talking. Kate desperately needs Charlie for support but may be willing to go it alone. And when Ponsoldt sets up abrupt turns for Kate, Winstead makes them happen smoothly.

Another thing keeping Smashed interesting is the effective supporting cast Ponsoldt assembled, some better known as comedy actors: Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation, almost unrecognizable as Kate's bland colleague guiding her to AA, Mary Kay Place as her drunken mother, and Will & Grace's Megan Mullally as the principal believing Kate's lie. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) offers gentle strength as Kate's AA sponsor. B (BayWalk 20 in St. Petersburg)

Steve Persall, Times movie critic

Alcoholic's struggles in 'Smashed' handled smoothly 11/21/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 3:30am]
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