When one thinks of a party mix songs by artists like Bart Davenport, Cass McCombs, and Sonny & The Sunsets are not usually what come to mind, but then again, Smashed is not a film that simply shows you how much fun you can have while under the influence – it is an honest (and sometimes honestly hard to watch) look at what it means to live your life in a haze and what happens after you make the decision to come out of it.
As I said in my review of the film, Smashed focuses on the life of Kate, played with brutal honesty by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Kate is not a Ke$ha style party girl, but she is a girl who likes to have a good time and can be spotted indulging in some “hair of the dog” before heading off to work (as a school teacher, mind you.) This slow, unassuming, almost innocent look at Kate’s life is reflected in the film’s soundtrack which is filled with more mellow artists (like those mentioned above) and composed pieces from Andy Cabic and Eric D. Johnson.
Kate’s main party companion is her husband Charlie (played by Aaron Paul who gives his own haunting performance) and while it is clear these two love getting drunk together, it is just as clear that they also love each other. But as Kate starts to get sober (and Charlie does not) their relationship begins to drift apart and things that once seemed black and white start to become gray. The composed pieces from Cabic and Johnson work to reflect this relationship taking us through the times when things seemed simple with the harmless sounding “Shower and a Beer” to the times when nothing is simple with the aching “One More Game of Croquet.”
Charlie, and Kate’s relationship with him, is certainly a large part of her life, but it is not the root of her issues. Where Cabic and Johnson made “Shower and a Beer” feel innocuous, the strings that come in on “Lake Arrowhead” start to hint at where Kate is truly coming from, and how much further she has to go. But again, while Kate’s disease is not something to brush under the rug or look at through rose colored glasses, Smashed does not hit you over the head with a message that feels like an after school special rather than a moving narrative. Kate certainly finds herself in some less than ideal situations, but the music keeps its almost jaunty feeling on tracks like “Wake Up and Run” and “Highland Park Bike Ride.”
The soundtrack is not all scored pieces and the lyrics of those non-scored tracks help shed a bit more light on Kate’s state of mind as she goes through the many different emotions that come with getting sober. We have all had hard weeks and used the weekend as a time to let loose, but when that idea is looked at through Kate’s eyes lyrics like “A couple of drunken nights rolling on the floor, is just the kind of mess I’m looking for / I’m gonna dream ‘til Monday comes in sight, I want to see the bright lights tonight” (“I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight”) take on new meaning.
Dark Meat may have the heaviest song on the soundtrack with their gravely guitar driven “When the Shelter Came” – a title that sounds hopeful, but a song that is almost desperate sounding and works to show what it means when they say you can have good days and bad while going through recovery.
Where Smashed hits you the hardest is when no music is playing and you are left with the silent realization of what is truly going on as you watch Kate start to understand the depth of her problem. Kate’s speech at her AA meeting or her final blow up with Charlie do not need music to support the emotions being displayed on screen because they are all there, raw and uninhibited, and it is both mesmerizing and terrifying to watch.
Despite the weighty content this soundtrack supports, the collection on its own plays like fun mix of artists and composed pieces that, much like Kate, are a good time, but still filled with some actual heart. Kate is not a bad person and even in her darkest moments, she is still someone you want to root for. So don’t feel guilty if “Someone2dance” makes you want to tap your feet, just make sure you mind the line of overindulgence when imbibing on the liquid courage you may need to get up and ask someone to join you on that dance floor.
The soundtrack for Smashed is available through Lakeshore Records.
1. “Shower and a Beer” – Andy Cabric & Eric D. Johnson
2. “I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight” – Richard and Linda Thompson
3. “Wake Up and Run” – Andy Cabric & Eric D. Johnson
4. “Someone2dance” – Bart Davenport
5. “Highland Park Bike Ride” – Andy Cabric & Eric D. Johnson
6. “Por Ti” – Omero Guerrero
7. “Dreams Come True Girl” – Cass McCombs
8. “Lake Arrowhead” – Andy Cabric & Eric D. Johnson
9. “When the Shelter Came” – Dark Meat
10. “Santa’s Village” – Andy Cabric & Eric D. Johnson
11. “Planet of Women” – Sonny & The Sunsets
12. “One More Game of Croquet” – Andy Cabric & Eric D. Johnson
13. “Our Anniversary” – Smog