Monday, January 29, 2024

Desperately Seeking Susan

Hanging together by a number of coincidences and chance events, 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan plays of the rising popularity of Madonna in her first film role as the bohemian drifter Susan and Rosanna Arquette as the bored housewife mistaken for her leading to a farcical thriller concerning some stolen Egyptian earrings neither women realize are worth enough to kill for. Despite Arquette getting the much larger role, much of the marketing featured more on Madonna playing on the musician's popularity and first on-screen role.

While incredibly goofy, and requiring a rather large suspension of disbelief from the audience, the film had a big impact on 80s fashion (much of it inspired by Madonna's own look), while also offering some commentary on yuppie culture and providing a pro-feminist message underneath the plot of mistaken identities, temporary amnesia, and murder.

The script begins with Roberta's (Arquette) obsession with a pair of lovers (Madonna and Robert Joy) who meet up in various cities through the use of personal ads in a tryst far more exciting than her day-to-day life. After becoming a bit obsessed, she even tails the mysterious Susan deciding to buy the jacket she trades in at a thrift store. That, a slight resemblance to Susan from the right angle, and a head injury giving Roberta temporary amnesia, make everyone assume she is Susan for a good chunk of the film. A number of misunderstandings later, things eventually work themselves out.

The film's supporting cast includes Mark Blum as Roberta's mostly clueless husband and Laurie Metcalf as his sister (with comedian Steven Wright thrown in has her new boyfriend), Aidan Quinn as one of several men who mistakes Roberta for Susan and becomes her protector and lover, Will Patton as the gun-toting thug out to retrieve the jewels and wrongly assuming Roberta is Susan, and Peter Maloney, Ann Magnuson, and John Turturro as performers in a night club both versions of Susan end up temporarily working for.

Certainly a product of its time, Desperately Seeking Susan is a fun romp with more going on under the surface than you may notice initially. It's arguably still Madonna's best acting performance in a role that was tailor made for her and Arquette manages to carry the film well through some of its more dodgier sequences. The film is also notable for including a demo version of "Into the Groove" which can only be found in the film and was not included on the soundtrack.

The latest DVD release includes previously-released features such as audio commentary from director Susan Seidelman and the film's producers, the extended original ending to the film featuring the characters returning the jewels to Egypt, outtakes, and the film's trailer.

  • Title: Desperately Seeking Susan
  • IMDb: link

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