Desperately Seeking Susan
- Rosanna Arquette as Roberta Glass
- Madonna as Susan
- Aidan Quinn as Dez
- Mark Blum as Gary Glass
- Robert Joy as Jim
- Laurie Metcalf as Leslie Glass
A screwball comedy in an 80’s setting, Desperately Seeking Susan is a charming movie with memorable work from Rosanna Arquette and of course Madonna as the eponymous Susan along with a cool soundtrack and tons of kitsch appeal.
Roberta Glass is a bored housewife living in Fort Lee, New Jersey. She is married to Gary, a moronic hot tub salesman who barely pays any attention to her as he’s so wrapped up in his work. To pass the time she reads through the personal sections of the paper. One particular set of articles catches her eye, they detail the relationship between Jim and a woman known as Susan. She reads of a rendezvous between the two in Battery Park and so still feeling unfulfilled she heads to New York. It is here that she catches a glimpse of Susan, a wildly dressed sexy girl. Unfortunately neither of the women realise they are mixed up in a criminal plot involving some valuable Egyptian earrings that were in possession of Susan’s gangster boyfriend before he was killed. Events reach a head when Susan sells her famous jacket and Roberta purchases it, unbeknownst to her one of the earrings is in the pocket. A criminal mistakes Roberta for Susan and attempts to retrieve the jewel only for Roberta to hit her head and fall into amnesia. When she awakes, she begins to believe she is in fact the thrifty Susan and so finds her herself embroiled in a madcap web of crime and comedy that never lets up.
Susan Seidelman directs with an assured touch and keen eye for detail that captures the retro glam of Downtown New York and the fashionable 80’s setting that serves as the backdrop to Roberta’s misadventures and Susan’s free-wheeling existence. The whole film resembles an old MTV video and gives Desperately Seeking Susan an appeal that is stylish and charming. The soundtrack is a well-chosen mix of soul grooves and 80’s power pop. This is the film that featured one of Madonna’s most memorable dance tunes ‘Into The Groove’ which is heard at two pivotal moments in the film. Thomas Newman contributes a score of New Wave beats, synthesisers and pounding drums to echo Roberta’s obsession with Susan and the wild lifestyle that Susan herself leads. The script is witty and full of some interesting twists on old genre conventions. Some of the antics may become repetitive as the film goes on but it’s such a blast that one may not realise because of the charming film unfolding in front of them.
What really gives Desperately Seeking Susan the memorable factor is the cast, most notably Rosanna Arquette and Madonna. In the lead, Rosanna Arquette has great comic timing and a personality that alternates between vulnerable and flinty strength as Roberta finds herself caught up in a twisting plot. In the pivotal role of Susan, Madonna finds a role that suits her like a glove. Her other ventures into cinema may not be that great, but she brings a sexy, edgy and wise-cracking charm to the role of this thrifty girl who knows how to handle herself. Aidan Quinn is suitably dashing as Dez, who takes a shine to Roberta when she believes she’s Susan. Mark Blum provides eye-rolling humour as Roberta’s business minded husband Gary who doesn’t have the time to make a go at his relationship with her, which in turn makes Roberta turn to the personal ads to add some spice to her dull life. Other colourful supporting cast members include Robert Joy as Jim, the guy who placed the advert and Laurie Metcalf as Roberta’s comical sister-in-law Leslie.
It’s not the best comedy ever and some of it may fall into farce, but Desperately Seeking Susan has a nifty appeal, some great visual techniques and colourful characters to hold the attention for an hour or two.