If you’ve heard Susan Seidelman’s name at all, it’s probably because she directed the film that propelled Madonna’s early career, Desperately Seeking Susan. If you’re very observant you might have seen her credited more recently as director on the odd episode of Sex And The City. Before all that though, there was a quirky, sketchy, budget film she released in 1982 – a sharp and witty portrait of a punky girl-about-town, trying to make her mark on New York and maybe America.

The wonderfully named Wren (Susan Berman) appears a very different creature from the tiny, delicate bird that is her namesake. Pouting in screaming red lipstick from beneath massive shades, we first catch her striding through New York streets and subways, plastering her Xeroxed face over walls and in train carriages, in one of a series of ineffective bids for stardom and riches. On this walkabout, she picks up country boy Paul (Brad Rijn), who’s just turned up in New York in a beaten-up, graffiti-covered van (out of which he lives) and takes up the punishing role of groupie’s groupie, following her around like a forlorn puppy in the hope of some affection.

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Paul’s picked the wrong girl. Armed with big and little lies for any occasion, all Wren wants to do is bag herself a rock-star boyfriend – she has her eye on the frontman of a band called Smithereens – and make a living in an entirely more lazy and glamorous way than working nine to five. She strides in and out of scenes, determined to brazen her way through life, but her superficiality and glaring porkies soon have everyone around her on their guard. Even worse, some have noticed that she’s a bit naïve, and are only happy to take advantage. “I just wanna be in a swimming pool, eating tacos and signing autographs,” daydreams the self-styled princess of the East Side, but the reality is she’s on a road to nowhere – and it looks like even her ride has ditched her.

At times the story is stretched a little too thin over the grainy canvas of down-at heel New York, which is the base of the movie. But Berman generates an irrepressible energy that makes Wren endearing in spite of her prickly personality, and draws it all together. There’s also the perfectly integrated pop-punk soundtrack, which is just very cool. Smithereens is a fun, nostalgic film with a little streak of calculated bitterness – it’s a perfect comeback to all hollywood’s uber-airbrushed heroines. Smithereens is no chick-flick: it’s pure rock and roll.

Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2008
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A punky girl dreams of celebrity in Eighties New York.
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Director: Susan Seidelman

Writer: Peter Askin, Ron Nyswaner, Ron Nyswaner, Susan Seidelman

Starring: Susan Berman, Richard Hell, Brad Rijn, Nada Despotovich, Roger Jett, Kitty Summerall

Year: 1982

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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