Smithereens (1982)

Smithereens (1982) movie poster

director Susan Seidelman
viewed: 03/04/2017

I’m pretty sure I first caught wind of Smithereens via the old USA Network’s great weekend show Night Flight. It’s another film on Rolling Stone‘s 25 Greatest Punk Rock Movies of All Time.

Directed and co-written by Susan Seidelman (who would go on to direct Desperately Seeking Susan a couple years later), offers views of early 1980’s NYC through the prism of a narcissistic hanger-on. Wren (Susan Berman) isn’t at all the nicest of girls. We first see her stealing a pair of sunglasses from an unsuspecting hand in the subway where she goes to paste her photocopies of self-promotion all over the place.

When newcomer Paul (Brad Rijn) spots her and tries to make friends with her, little does he realize what a bottomless hole of a person she is. Her eventual comeuppance takes the form of rocker Eric (Richard Hell), someone slightly above her in coolness and street cred (he’s got an album out), but who proves to be as much of a user and manipulator as Wren herself.

The portrait of Wren is interesting. As shallow and selfish as she is, striving for something of fame or notoriety, it’s not entirely unsympathetic. She finds herself at the end aimless and alone,  but perhaps her story still goes on somewhere.

Berman was a nonactor before the film and she gives a great performance as Wren. Seidelman populates the film with a lot of interesting small performances from characters like Wren’s friend or the prostitute who propositions Paul to even the cheap floozy that Eric has just tossed aside even after marrying her. These women are interesting in their own ways, even in their small roles.

Richard Hell is very good in the movie too. Which is interesting because only a couple years earlier he was pretty bad in Blank Generation.

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