For her role as Kate in Smashed, a new movie co-written and directed by James Ponsoldt about an alcoholic teacher, lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead really did her homework. Per an interview with Daily Actor:
I spent a lot of time in AA meetings, I spent a lot of time with James just really carving out Kate’s backstory and becoming really, really specific about that. And just spending a lot of time on myself and my own issues emotionally. It was a lot like, just, therapy. Working through my own stuff. That ended up being the most important thing, the thing that connected me the most to the character — sort of relating my struggles to her struggles and my issues to her issues, and sort of linking those two things up. It was an amazing experience.
According to many reviews, apparently it paid off.
Susan Burke, age 30, the other writer of Smashed, admits she has an intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be Kate. Although the movie is not about her, she has admitted that she’s been sober since the age of 24.
Michael Nordine, Village Voice, describes the story:
Kate has already hit rock bottom at film’s beginning—no, seriously. She wets the bed, pukes in front of a classroom full of first-graders, and smokes crack within the first 10 minutes and spends the rest of it clawing her way back into civilized society. Smashed is as much about recovery as it is about addiction, with Ponsoldt successfully making the case that the 12 steps are sometimes more difficult than whatever necessitated them in the first place. Kate’s main obstacle in her struggle isn’t her own willpower, it turns out, but rather the influence of her enabling husband, Charlie (an equally good Aaron Paul, no stranger to this sort of material), who, having never hit the same lows as his wife, can’t quite see the point in getting on the wagon.
Therapy is involved in Kate’s recovery attempts, at least at some point and to some degree. Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News, reports that “(a)fter one night too many of booze and drugs, Kate halfheartedly tries therapy — partly out of curiosity, it seems, but also out of an inchoate sense of desperation …” How does it turn out? He doesn’t say—nor can I find the answer elsewhere.
Included in the cast of characters are some helpers, such as her AA sponsor (Octavia Spencer) and the vice principal of Kate’s school (Nick Offerman), who’s in recovery himself.
In the category of non-helpers, there’s Kate’s enabling spouse, of course, as well as her mom (Mary Kay Place), who evidently has her own untreated alcohol issues.
Although Kate is generally perceived by reviewers to have “hit bottom” before getting help, critic Christy Lemire, Associated Press, complains that Kate’s “…bottom isn’t low enough, the struggle isn’t difficult enough, and the characters (especially the supporting ones) don’t feel developed enough to provide necessary context for our heroine’s journey.”
Notably, though, the current thinking on this subject is that you don’t have to hit bottom before seeking help. It’s actually ill-advised and risky.
And now, the Smashed trailer: