It’s a bold claim. Yes, I’m saying that Smashed, a story about a first grade teacher (Kate) recovering from both alcoholism and her destructive relationship with her vaguely-unemployed alcoholic husband, is of supreme relevance to Yalies. That’s because Smashed, in the end, is a story about love, and the lonely desire for progress and self-improvement. Kate, played by the brilliant Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and her husband Charlie, who both initially deny the label of “alcoholic,” live a fun, romantic (albeit disordered and dangerous) life together. They share an invincible aura of goodness (Kate naively offers to give rides to drunk strangers; Charlie agrees to sober up for a visit to see Kate’s mother) that throws a halo over their objectively irresponsible lifestyle. It’s not difficult to see that they love each other with a passion separate from their drunkenness. Ponsoldt beautifully captures a heart-wrenchingly tender scene of love when a sober Kate and a sober Charlie linger briefly in a playground from Kate’s childhood. Their marriage, however, is threatened when Kate decides to seek help through Alcoholics Anonymous.
In Smashed, we see that opposing agendas and goals can break even the strongest bonds between individuals. It’s true; there are a few unwieldy weaknesses in the film. The dialogue is awkward and the shaky handheld digital cinematography persists nauseatingly even after Kate gets sober. But I urge you to look past these flaws, because Smashed is—forgive the pun—absolutely smashing. While skillfully avoiding the hackneyed road-to-recovery Hollywood plot scheme, Ponsoldt presents us with a profound meditation on love that is bound to leave you crying.