Awards Profile: Smashed


Directed by: James Ponsoldt
Written by: James Ponsoldt and Susan Burke

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Kyle Gallner, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Kay Place, Patti Allison, Bree Turner, Richmond Arquette, Carol Avery, and Mackenzie Davis

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb): A married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides to get sober.

Furthermore, the website Coming Soon has this slightly expanded plot synopsis: In “Smashed,” Kate and Charlie like to have a good time. Their marriage thrives on a shared fondness for music, laughter… and getting smashed. When Kate’s partying spirals into hard-core asocial behavior, compromising her job as an elementary schoolteacher, something’s got to give. But change isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Sobriety means she will have to confront the lies she’s been spinning at work, her troubling relationship with her mother, and the nature of her bond with Charlie.

Why It Could Succeed:
Playing off of good buzz and reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, ‘Smashed’ is first and foremost a potential awards vehicle for its star Mary Elizabeth Winstead, but there’s also the chance that the film itself could go a long way this year. In some ways, this tale of an attempt at sobriety is aiming to be this year’s ’50/50’…an emotional yet humorous take on some very tough subject matter. If people embrace this flick like they did that one, we’re going to be talking a lot about its awards prospects. These types of movies are tricky, but last year we saw how great they can be when done right, and there are more than a few similarities here…including a nice cast and an up and coming filmmaker at the helm. Especially for Winstead, a well made and well reviewed film of this nature can vault someone to the forefront of the awards race. In my early predictions I have her getting what some would call a surprise Best Actress nomination, but I actually see her as a potentially major contender (remember, Best Actress nominees and winners do tend to be on the younger and prettier side…something she has going for her in spades). There are potential supporting players to take note of as well (including Nick Offerman, Aaron Paul and Octavia Spencer), and perhaps like last year with ’50/50′ the screenplay could get pulled in too. I’m looking at this film as a dark horse contender in a few categories if all goes well for it. Maybe I’m overestimating its chances, but I’m bullish on this flick. The movie does have the potential to not make a real big bid for awards, and I’ll be getting to that right about now below…

Why It Could Fail:
Just like ’50/50′ wound up getting shut out, ‘Smashed’ could follow in that movie’s footsteps in that regard as well. Voters sometimes just don’t like their serious subjects peppered with humor. When they want to cry, they want to cry…making them laugh can sometimes have the wrong effect on them. Also, as much as voters like their Best Actress contenders young, they often do like to know them a bit better than they know Winstead so far. Beyond that, the director has yet to really impress anyone (myself included), and the early word was quite kind to the flick at Sundance, but not everyone went out of their way to praise it. In fact, less people than I expected mentioned it as an awards player, even if they liked the movie. Now, that might not mean a whole heck of a lot (a number of reviews a few years back at Cannes called ‘Inglourious Basterds’ a disappointing mess unworthy of consideration, and we all know how wrong they were there) but it might mean something. Like I said above, I’m bullish on the chances of the film, mainly in terms of Winstead, but I’m also smart enough to not be going all in on her work and the movie itself either. This one might end up just too far below the radar to get any real notice in the end. We just can’t tell yet, so perhaps it’s smart to be a bit more conservative than me right now.

Awards Speculation:
The acting categories are where this film is going to make its play for Oscars. We can almost assuredly cross off Best Picture and Best Director, with the techs going there as well. Best Original Screenplay is a long shot, but not a category I’m ready to rule out. Obviously that leaves the acting slots, and between Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, and Octavia Spencer, there’s some good potential here if the film is a hit with the critics. The movie likely is going to be all in on Winstead for Best Actress, and if the reviews and buzz are there they could also elevate Paul to Best Actor, but likely he’ll be competing for Best Supporting Actor. That category could also have Kyle Gallner or Nick Offerman fighting for a nod (especially Offerman supposedly), but I think it’s Paul or bust there. Best Supporting Actress could again be the playground of Spencer (like last year, though I doubt she’d be able to win again), though a campaign could also potentially be launched for either Mary Kay Place or Megan Mullally if they’re up to snuff…but again, don’t count on it. Winstead is by far the main awards contender of the bunch, at least going by the early reviews, but don’t completely count out Offerman, Paul, Spencer, or even the screenplay in the right situation. Keep an eye on Winstead, but don’t forget about the others. We’ll know more once the film debuts a trailer, sets its release date (my guess is sometime in the fall), and possibly plays another festival like Telluride or Toronto, but this certainly could be one of the more under the radar contenders this year. Stay tuned for more on ‘Smashed’ in the coming months!

The film is currently scheduled to be released at some point during 2012 and is being distributed domestically by Sony Pictures Classics.

Oscar Potential:
Best Actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)
Best Supporting Actor (Nick Offerman or Aaron Paul)
Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer)
Best Original Screenplay (Susan Burke and James Ponsoldt)

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