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 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.
This film was one of the first American independent films to be selected for 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. Yet Seidelman doesn't offer a very interesting perspective on her: her dislike of her character is so evident and uninflected that you soon start to wonder why she wanted to make the film at all."