The vagaries of film distribution being what they are, this weekend may be your only opportunity to see the best female lead performance in a movie we’ve seen all year. The film is called Smashed, it’s playing at the Modern, and the performance comes from Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She portrays Kate, an L.A. schoolteacher whose drinking habits have left her in bad shape — she pees herself more than once and wakes up in public places more than once before she seeks help. As she tries to get sober, her husband (played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) keeps drinking heavily, and the marriage slowly but surely becomes untenable.
Director/co-writer James Ponsoldt deals with alcoholism in fair detail, and good supporting performances come from The Help’s Octavia Spencer as Kate’s AA sponsor and Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman as a fellow teacher and recovering alcoholic who turns Kate onto AA and then clumsily comes on to her. Yet it’s Winstead (whom you may have seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and her ripped-from-the-bowels performance that makes this movie. Her face registers all the struggles in Kate’s quest for sobriety and the desperation behind the lies she tells at work to cover up her drunkenness. This is one of the better movies about alcoholism ever made, but Winstead alone recommends the movie.
Smashed plays Fri-Sun at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Tickets are $6.50-8.50. Call 817-738-9215.