28 August 2018



I loved this film beyond words. It's billed as 'an unfaded snapshot of a bygone era,' the era being early 'Eighties New York's East Village when New York's East Village was culturally still the coolest, hippest most happening place in the world to live in. 

So many people today are still desperately nostalgic for that era or else they wish they'd been around to live through it first-hand. Everything was just way cool back then, even poverty, homelessness and drug-use, if you can believe what you see in films like SMITHEREENS.

The lead character has the unlikely name of Wren, and she looks like she's just walked out of the pop music video for the Cyndi Lauper song, 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.' Cheap (stolen!) sunglasses, fishnet tights, leopard-print skirts and red converse trainers characterise Wren's fresh 'n' funky psychedelic look, under all of which she looks remarkably like a young Ruby Wax.

She's the creation of Susan Seidelman the director's, who was just a wee film school graduate when she made the movie. On her own admission, Susan ran around the streets of New York with her camera, shooting places and people she thought looked cool, with nary a thought of a permit in mind, lol.

Well, it would probably only have stultified her creativity to have gone down to the Town Hall to seek permission to shoot here, there and anywhere. Fuck it, man, this was New York in the 'Eighties, it's all good, it's all cool...! She says you couldn't do that now and you probably couldn't. Too much poxy bureaucracy and red tape.

Anyway, we first meet Wren when she's papering the underground subway with pictures of her face wearing a fierce expression. Who's this girl, the picture asks? Well, who is she indeed? She's a nobody who wants to be a somebody, but doing what? Believe it or not, she doesn't really know herself what it is she wants to be known for.

Does she sing, dance, act, model, write, paint, compose music? She doesn't really do any of these things. She tries to hang around with guys who sing in bands in the hope that some of their 'fame' rubs off on her. Most of them recognise her for the hard-up hanger-on she is and so she doesn't have much luck in getting famous this way. It's pretty sad, all this, sad as in pitiful.

Wren has a poorly-paid job at a copy shop, where she no doubt printed off the flyers of her face while her boss's back was turned, lol. Early on in the film, she gets locked out of her apartment for the non-payment of her rent. She has a married white trash sister who's not much use to her and Wren's adamant that she's not going home to 'Mom.' That's that then, so.

She's feisty and gobby and she puts a brave face on everything, but only to save face. She'd rather cut her own tongue out than admit that she's flat-broke and has nowhere to stay. She always tries to make out that she has a million places to be and a million people to see but it's all just an act.

Everything with Wren is all bullshit, like, she's always 'just about' to get paid or she's got some money coming 'tomorrow' or 'real soon' but she's not fooling anyone. Everyone can see that she's brassic and down on her luck and no-one wants to get 'infected' by her bad luck. People always seem to think that that kind of thing is contagious, don't they? They avoid people who are down on their luck like they've got the plague or something, as if bad luck is 'catching.'

Wren sort of ricochets back and forth between two guys throughout the film. Paul is a nice young fella who came to New York in his psychedelic van for probably the same reasons that all young people come to the big city from the sticks.

He's cute but he's as poor as a church mouse and he lives and sleeps in his van, his only possession worth any money. After meeting Wren on the subway the day she's putting up the flyers with her mugshot on them, he falls for her in a big way and is thrilled when she condescends to sleep in his van on the nights when she can't find anywhere else to kip.

Wren's so-called 'friends' are all tired of her mooching and couch-surfing and sponging off them and they gradually cut her off altogether, leaving her in a very vulnerable position. It's not their fault, they have their own bills and rent to pay and no-one likes a moocher, but still, it's sad to see Wren being cold-shouldered wherever she goes, getting doors literally slammed in her face.

Eric is a handsome but moody punk-rock singer who was mildly famous once and hopes to be again, but for now he's just another has-been like all the rest of the has-beans. Wren idolises him for his 'status' as a once-famous punk-rock singer and she wants to get with him.

Yeah, sure, he'll allow her to sleep with him in his fabulously cool New York loft, where there's a motorbike and a self-harming junkie in the bathroom and a ton of booze in the bath, but he
certainly won't commit to anything else. That'd be, like, too heavy, man.

There's a stunning blonde girl who hangs around with Eric a lot but it's clearly not a happy relationship. You'd think that two exceptionally good-looking people in a relationship together would be as happy as Larry from morning till night but noooooooo, these two act like they can't stand each other and Wren takes advantage of their time apart to try and inveigle herself with Eric, who looks out for no-one but Eric, if you get me.

So guess which guy Wren ultimately chooses, the nice decent guy who'll treat her right or the up-himself asshole who uses people to further his own career? Yeah, right, she picks the nice guy, naturellement. Women all love a nice guy.

Yep, women want nothing more than to be respected by their life partner and treated like a useful, productive person in their own right. Now please excuse me while I run to the loo as I appear to have wet myself laughing, lol.

Everyone in the movie, but most of all Wren, talks ad nauseam about 'going to LA, man,' which they all obviously see as the Holy Grail for people like Wren who just want to get 'famous,' even if, like Wren, they have no discernible talent.

Wren is a nice enough girl who could make something of herself if she tried but first she needs to get this idea of being 'famous' for doing nothing out of her thick skull. It's not the be-all and end-all in life.

Does she really want to end up like that user of people, Eric? Well, of course, Eric is super-hot and Wren probably thinks that being 'cool' like Eric would be the bee's knees but Wren is deluded. She's got fame on the brain but it's not all it's cracked up to be. I mean, Eric had a taste of it but does Eric look happy to you? Exactly, lol.

Susan Seidelman the director, who incidentally went on to direct Madonna and Rosanna Arquette in DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, thinks that the girls of today who try to get famous using Instagram or reality television shows are just the Wrens of today.

Imagine Wren on Instagram! She'd flood the Internet with daft piccies of herself. If she even had a talent she could try to capitalise on, but she doesn't even try to find out what her talent is. Being 'famous for being famous' is about the saddest thing I can think of.

Am I being judgemental? Well, maybe. But I do feel deeply sorry for Wren and all the girls who would've gotten 'lost' in the same way, getting swallowed up by the big city they thought was going to have the streets paved with gold just for their benefit, God bless 'em. 

It's a rude, cold awakening that Wren is in for, Wren and all the others like her. But Paul with the van's got a blanket she's welcome to share. Let's hope she makes the right choice.

A few quick random snippets before I go. Richard Hell, who plays the lover-god that is Eric, used to be in an important punk-rock band called RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS. That's an odd name. I think I'd get tired trying to pronounce it.

Cookie Mueller, who plays Karen, the horror movie character, and who sadly died of AIDS at the tragically young age of forty, was one of John Waters's 'Dreamlanders,' or stable of regular characters. 

And finally, Chris Noth, who's probably best known for playing 'Mr. Big' in SEX AND THE CITY, briefly portrays a transexual prostitute in SMITHEREENS. I'd be prepared to bet big money that you didn't know that...! 

SMITHEREENS is available to buy now on Blu-Ray from the CRITERION COLLECTION.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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