Underground) DVD. Eccentric
Comedy. 93 Minutes.
Rated R. Language. I watched this sucka twice, spacing my viewings
about three months apart. I’m
glad I saw this again, because while I thought this film was decent the
first time, I really appreciated it more the second go-round.
Smithereens is the story of Wren (fuckin’ brilliantly portrayed by
Susan Berman), a self-promoting, cute young Jersey girl who wants nothing
more than to somehow fit into the burgeoning East Village music scene of
the early ‘80s. It’s a
world where everyone is broke and desperate in one way or another to
“make it,” or to at least look the part.
Sometimes Wren lives in a van with Paul, a sensitive dummy played
by Brad Rinn and who sort of reminds me of an unfunny version of the Woody
character on Cheers.
But it’s clear she’d much rather be movin’ and shakin’ with
Eric, a down on his luck musician perpetually trying to make a comeback
(Eric is loosely yet at times woodenly brought to life by early punk icon
Richard Hell). Eric turns out
to be a complete cad and ends up screwing Wren over much in the way she
jerks Paul around. The end is
fairly bleak, but the oddball, immediate nature of the film really sort of
makes that easy to take.
was the first American indie film ever to be invited to compete for the
Golden Palm Award at Cannes. The
opening sequence rules as Wren rips off a lady’s sunglasses and then
tears away into the subway. All
the while the first of some great songs by the Feelies sets a decidedly
gritty tone. Filmmaker Susan
Seidelman, who went on to direct Desperately Seeking Susan and episodes of Sex And The City, did a fantastic job of catching this unique New
York moment in time. Everybody seems sort of unwashed, completely broke
and mostly living in squalor, yet they all appear to be so optimistic that
things are going to get better for them.
It’s the kind of thing that I bet people living in the East
Village back then would actually look back on now with fondness.
A decade after Smithereens
was filmed, I was living in a similar situation in Boston.
Despite the fact that I was secretly squatting in my apartment and
so minus funds that I was plotting ways to steal empty kegs off people’s
back porches for the deposit money, when I remember that time I realize
that I’ve probably rarely felt so alive since then.
And this sort of vibrancy is what I think I like best about this
Extras are pretty basic, highlighted by fairly
interesting interviews with Susan Berman (still looks quite good) and a
mellow Richard Hell about the making of the film.
There’s also an audio director’s commentary from Seidelman, the
theatrical trailer and a poster/stills gallery. –Ben Hunter