Embodying the punk-rock, anarchist spirit of the music scene in the 1980s, Susan Seidelman's Smithereens is the story of Wren, a fiery, independent spirit living New York City. Desperately trying to inject herself into the New York punk scene, Wren is a character who is in constant conflict with societal norms, a strong-minded female character whose struggle for recognition in the punk rock/anarchist lifestyle is amplified on a daily basis by her vagabond lifestyle, one that finds her going from place-to-place, fiercely scrambling for basic needs, such as food or a place to lay her head. Smithereens provides a vivid time capsule of New York City counterculture in the 1980s, detailing a character in Wren who bounces from seedy bar, to sweaty night club, intent on injecting herself into this punk rock culture. A character who isn't afforded the same type of recognition or respect as her male peers in this counterculture, Wren often finds herself only accepted due to her physical attributes, with both Paul, a runaway from Montana who lives in his van in a vacant lot, and Eric, a punk rocker looking to return to prominence, affording Wren at times for the purposes of either sex or companionship. Seidelman's Smithereens is a nihilistic film that never seems to seek empathy from the audience, presenting characters who seem to embrace the fringes of society, forming a culture that isn't congruent to the Reagan era of the 1980s. While the film is never outright political, it presents a core of disenfranchised youths, never going out of its way to make them sympathetic, quite the opposite, yet the humanity it presents, paired with a few subtle nods to the Reagan era and the conservative christian culture, provide a powerful testament to this counter-culture among the young, fed up with society's definition of success. Wren's nihilistic ways, her general lack of empathy towards everyone around her, her me-first demeanor seems matched by Eric, but Paul's genuine feelings for Wren provides the only real sense of optimism towards fellow man throughout Smithereens. Wren's toughness and selfishness are revealed as somewhat as a defense mechanism, a way to mask her own insecurities and fragility centered around her lack of success in the punk scene. This way of living, dog-eat-dog nihilism eventually finds Wren in a more fragile place, whose selfish, unhinged desires inevitably seem to have left her in a place a solitude.
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