A Journey in the 80’s: Desperately Seeking Susan

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Today, for my fourth review as a member of the Dirty Dozen ( a Facebook group formed  of twelve movie reviewers), I’ve decided to write about one of my favourite movies of the 80’s. Well… now that I’m thinking about it, I think it really is my number one favourite. Anyway, I’m talking about Desperately Seeking Susan. This film was directed by Susan Seidleman in 1985 and starred Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Aidan Quinn, Mark Blum, Robert Joy, Laurie Metcalf, Anna Levine, Will Patton, Steven Wright, Peter Maloney and John Turturo. The film was nominated for the best Foreign Language Film at the Cesar.

Susan Seidelman
Susan Seidelman

In a 1984’s interview, Madonna described this film as a “murder mystery comedy romance”. Well, we have no doubt, it’s far from being an ordinary movie! The main action takes place in New-York. Roberta (Rosanna Arquette), a young married woman without any story, is bored with her pathetic suburban life in. Her husband, Gary (Mark Blum), a pools seller, doesn’t seem to really care about her and Gary’s sister, Leslie (Laurie Metcalf) in always introduced in their life in a way or another. She takes a lot of place. Roberta only interested is the personals section of a New-York newspaper. What’s grab her attention the most is the little message of this section called “Desperately Seeking Susan”. A couple is sending messages to each other via this newspaper personals section. It’s their way to find each other when one is gone. Roberta is fascinated by this woman, Susan (Madonna) and want to discover who she is.

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On her side, Susan, who was in New-Jersey, is back to New-York. Her and her boyfriend Jimmy (Robert Joy) have an appointment. Of course, Roberta knows about it, thanks to the personals, and decides to follow her. She finally lost her, but buy  a coat that had belonged to her in a pawn shop. In the evening, she finds a key in the coat pocket and a picture of Susan. She then decides to dress up like Susan just for fun. However, she wants to return the key so she gives an appointment to Susan in a park. She sets the appointment via the private message section and signed it as “A stranger”. Susan read it and don’t think it’s really amusing, but decides to go to the appointment because she wants her key back. However, she is arrested when she arrives because she doesn’t give enough money to the cab. Roberta doesn’t notice her and continue to look for her.

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Then, what’s important to know before I continue is that one of two days before, Susan was in a man’s place for the night. Before she left the place in the mourning, she stole some money and a pair of beautiful earrings. She was then going to catch her bus and was noticed by a mysterious stranger. The day she’s having her appointment with Jim, she learns that this man has been thrown out of a window and that the earrings she stole from him belonged to Nefertiti and where stole in a museum. She tells Jimmy (except for the earrings) and this one, who worries for her, sends is friend Dez (Aidan Quinn) after her. So, after Susan gets arrested, Roberta is disturbed by the mysterious and dangerous guy ( Will Patton) who think  she’s Susan. When she tries to escape, she falls on her head. Dez arrives at the same moment. When he sees she’s having trouble, he goes after her to take care of her. However, he really thinks she’s Susan and so does Roberta as has she lost her memory… I won’t tell you more. This is only the beginning of the film.

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You have to know something. I love classic films, but also Madonna. I used to be obsessed by her. I still am, but I’m taking it more easy you know! So, of course, I wanted to hear all her music and see all her films (which I haven’t done because they are not all good films). Of course, Desperately Seeking Susan was high on the list. The first time I saw this film, it was a VHS copy of the film that my grandmother had recorded for me on television. So, I first saw it in french (but at the time I didn’t care for watching my movies in french, not like today ahah). I immediately loved it. Since, I have seen the film countless time and know it quite by heart. And, yes, it became my favourite Madonna’s film.

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The distribution of this film is very interesting. Rosanna Arquett won the BAFTA award for her performance as Roberta and Madonna received a good feedback about her acting. She is, in my opinion, the most interesting element about this film. Really, you can’t say that this is not a good performance, because she is kind of playing her own role. Indeed, just like Madonna, Susan is a little rebel, she likes to do whatever she wants and doesn’t really care about what people may think of her. Susan clothes in the films were also designed in the Madonna’s style (her dressing style in the 80’s), not to mention that the action takes place in New-York, the city where everything started for Madonna. Rosanna Arquette is also great in this film. It’s a star I know less than Madonna, but she was quite interesting in Desperately Seeking Susan and, in my opinion, perfect for the part of Roberta. Aidan Quinn, who plays Dez, was good, but sometimes a little too serious, Well, that was part of his character, so I guess he played it right. I think my favourite male character in this film is Gary (Roberta’s husband) played by Mark Blum. He is so stupid, because he understands nothing about his wife Roberta and his only preoccupation is to sell pools to his customers. Well, that’s what makes him one of the funniest things in this film. The parts where he is with Susan are delightfully hilarious because they are two opposites.

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DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, Rosanna Arquette, Mark Blum, 1985, (c) Orion

The fact that Desperately Seeking Susan is a murder mystery comedy makes it very interesting. Why? Because there is a certain suspense. At first, just like Roberta, we want to know more about Susan. Then, we wonder who is this mysterious stranger who is after Susan and when Roberta has her accident, we can’t wait to see what will happen. But all this is told in a comic way so it becomes very pleasant to watch. It’s, honestly, the king of movie that didn’t bored me at all. It grabs my attention from the beginning until the end. There are no unnecessary scenes. The fact that it was directed by a woman is also very interesting because, first, female movie directors a more rare than male movie directors, but also because we can really feel this film was directed from a woman’s point of view. The female characters are more important than the male’s ones and everything is settled to their advantage. They are, also, independent women, even if they each have a man in their life. Well, Susan is clearly independent. Roberta is less, but she tries to be. It’s actually quite fascinating to see her evolution. Well, I think we can say that Desperately Seeking Susan is kind of a feminist movie.

Susan Seidelman and her actresses
Susan Seidelman and her actresses

“Good going stranger”, this line said by Madonna is probably the most famous line of the film. “I don’t believe it”, comes back several times to. Seriously, they never “believe it” in this film! It’s a movie full of surprises, not only for us, but also for the characters. 😉 The story is, in my opinion very creative and there are some great lines in the screenplay. Here are some of my favourites:

1- Leslie : I can’t believe the two of you are eating in the middle of a crisis like this.

Gary : We’re nervous, what do you want…

Leslie : Then take a Valium like a normal person.

2- Gary : Susan! What are you doing?

Susan : I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?

3- Leslie : Everybody I know is desperate, except for you.

Roberta : I’m desperate.

Leslie : Ha!

Roberta : Well, sort of.

Madonna in the cab. Love her facial expression!
Madonna in the cab. Love her facial expression!

Finally, something we have to mention about this film is its great and entertaining soundtrack. A very 80’s music that fits the film perfectly. Madonna’s success Into the Groove was written for this film. We can hear it in the scene where Susan meets Gary in a bar and during the ending credits. It’s one of my favourite songs from the Material Girl. Know it by heart. The video clip shows some part of the film and is very enjoyable. I’ll let you watch it.

I also invite you to watch this 1984 Madonna’s interview. She doesn’t only talks about the film, but she does talk about it at least. She gives her opinion about acting. It’s quite interesting.

Well, writing about this film is something I should have done before! Before I saw many classic films, it used to be part of my top 10. Now I think it might be part of the top 20. Just a really worth watching film. I haven’t dressed up like Susan for an Halloween few year ago! If you haven’t seen it, I hope your reading made you want to do so.

See you soon!

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2 thoughts on “A Journey in the 80’s: Desperately Seeking Susan

  1. The first time I saw ‘Desperately Seekeing Susan’, I was obsessed with Madonna! I wanted to be like her. This brings back great memories. Wonderful review, as always, Ginnie 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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