Smithereens (film)

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DVD cover of Smithereens.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Susan Seidelman
Produced by Joanne Gross
Susan Seidelman
Written by Peter Askin
Ron Nyswaner
Susan Seidelman
Starring Susan Berman
Cinematography Chirine El Khadem
Edited by Susan Seidelman
Release dates
  • September 11, 1982 (1982-09-11)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Smithereens is a 1982 film directed by Susan Seidelman and starring Susan Berman, Brad Rinn, and punk rock icon Richard Hell. The film follows a narcissistic young woman from New Jersey who comes to New York City to join the punk subculture, only to find that it's gravitated towards Los Angeles; in order to pay her way across country, she engages in a number of parasitic relationships, shifting her allegiances to new "friends" in an ongoing effort to ultimately endear herself to someone who will finance her desired lifestyle.

Smithereens marked the debut of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) and features a score by The Feelies. It was the first American independent film invited to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.[1] Smithereens is a precursor to Seidelman's next film Desperately Seeking Susan and both films share similar themes of female identity and self-reinvention.


Smithereens is the story of Wren (Susan Berman), an independent spirit from New Jersey promoting herself into the New York punk scene. She meets Paul (Brad Rijn), who ran away from Montana and lives out of his van in a parking lot. Paul seems to offer genuine friendship, however, Wren is only interested in forming meaningless relationships in hopes of bolstering her nonexistent career. She has no musical talents or industry skills, yet she aggressively pursues a pathetic spot for herself in places like the Peppermint Lounge. She drops Paul for Eric (Richard Hell, who also performs on the musical score), who has a record deal, and they work out a plan to escape to California, which requires Wren to pose as a prostitute in order to scam money from a prospective john. Things don't work out, and Wren finds herself hitting one wall after another, eventually getting kicked out of her apartment. With no place to go, Wren seeks out everyone she knows in the city, only to find herself left alone.



This film was the first American independent films to be selected for Competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Lead actress Susan Berman had no prior experience acting in a film. She was picked out of a theater crowd of an off-Broadway play by director Susan Seidelman to be in this film. In the words of Berman, "The only ones in the crowd were friends of the actors, or someone who knew someone who was involved. After the performance, these two people walked up to me and offered me a role in a feature length movie." For preparation, director Susan Seidelman told her actress Susan Berman to see the Federico Fellini film Nights of Cabiria before beginning to research her role. Seidelman used friends from her days as a student at NYU as a crew.


Janet Maslin of The New York Times said of the film, "Smithereens gets off to a fast start, thanks to Susan Berman's feisty performance and the vitality with which her story is told." and "Although willful inactivity seems a crucial part of the characters' way of life, it's carried too far; everyone here stays put a little longer than is believable, particularly Paul, who remains parked by the highway for what feels like weeks, with nothing to do but wait for Wren to appear."

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader said, "Wren, in her self-delusion, manipulativeness, and superficiality, easily ranks as one of the most obnoxious characters in film history, and she exerts a strange fascination."

Film critic Emanuel Levy said, "Susan Seidelman's feature debut, the first American indie to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival, put New York's East Village sensibility onscreen by examining issues of identity, desire and self-fulfillment from a distinctly female perspective."


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Smithereens". Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  2. ^ Mallory Curley, A Cookie Mueller Encyclopedia, Randy Press, 2010.
  3. ^ IMDB.COM
  4. ^ IMDB.COM

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