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“Smashed”: A New Movie Review

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March 19, 2013 by Dr. Bob Weathers

I just had the opportunity to view the movie, “Smashed,” last night.  Just out on DVD, this film serves as a powerful, one-two complement to this past year’s “Flight” (recently reviewed here, also).  “Smashed” follows the emotional and spiritual descent of a female elementary school teacher (never overplayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), as we witness her increasingly out-of-control enslavement to alcohol.

What the movie depicts with such understated, yet unsparing, honesty is how it is that substance — alcohol, drugs, even other so-called “process” (or compulsive behavioral) addictions — can so gradually insinuate into the life of the addicted individual; leading eventually to “hitting bottom”  (at least for the one who can only drink alcoholically).  In the movie, as in life, it is this hitting bottom that is so incredibly painful to watch…

In my recent review of the movie, “Flight,” I commented on the remarkable redemption — amidst seeming catastrophe — at the heart of the film.  I say “amidst seeming catastrophe” because the spiritual turning, associated with Denzel Washington’s character in that story, is not unaccompanied by a devastatingly high price to be paid for the wholesale “wreckage of the past” owing to his addictive behaviors.  (Though what gets “devastated” may in the end be the very sense of self, or ego, that led to the alcoholic drinking, or other addictive excess, in the first place.)

Here in “Smashed” it is the same.  Ms. Winstead’s teacher loses her job, and her reputation; then her marriage.  Yet it is clear that, at movie’s end, she (again, like Washington’s character in “Flight”) is participating in and experiencing some quite palpable freeing up of self, some radical liberation visible to all “with eyes to see.”  

I recall years ago coming one morning to teach a group of graduate students in psychology.  I had woken up from a dream earlier in which the following message was “given” me:

“Paradox is what God look likes to the human mind.”

That dream statement comes back to mind today, on the heels of last night’s movie.  How is it that huge, Job-like tragedy and loss may (though there are surely no guarantees) usher in deeply rooted freedom and gratitude?  What paradox (God?) finds expression in such life-reversals from dark to light?  “Smashed” evokes and invites us to taste that very paradox as grace-fully (truly) as any film in memory.

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