Any review of Smashed, first-time director James Ponsoldt's alcoholism/recovery flick begins and ends with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who turns in a strong performance as Kate Hannah, an elementary school teacher who can barely crawl out of the bottle long enough to teach her students and when she does manage to make it to her desk there's a fair chance that she'll vomit in front of them. Winstead gets to take on a role with more meat to it than most parts out there for women. After she hits bottom and becomes sober, it begins to put a strain on her personal relationships while running from the lies that she told while she was drinking.
What follows is a pretty run-of-the-mill indie alcoholism drama. Its subject matter affords its actors a lot of emotional ground to cover, and Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman, Octavia Spencer, Megan Mullally, Mary Kay Place, and Kyle Gallner all get to run with what they're given. It may not be the freshest film--its visual palette is a bit dull and Winstead's wardrobe is so unusually drab as to raise the question whether Kate Hannah grew up on a Mormon compound--but Smashed finds its strength in human drama.
And, really, Winstead is great. Her performance is exactly the kind that one would have expected to be recognized with an Independent Spirit Award nomination--it was--and gives one hope about her career going forward.