Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

“Desperate: I love that word. It’s so romantic.”

Desperately Seeking Susan Poster

After accidentally hitting her head, a bored housewife named Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) becomes an amnesiac, and is mistaken for a free-spirited woman named Susan (Madonna). With the help of her new friend Dez (Aidan Quinn), Roberta tries to avoid being killed by a mysterious man who is pursuing her; meanwhile, Roberta’s worried husband (Mark Blum) enlists Susan’s help in tracking her down.


Response to Peary’s Review:
Susan Seidelman’s popular ’80s fairytale about amnesia and switched identities is primarily notable as the film which gave pop star Madonna her breakthrough role. While she’s no great actress, Madonna is perfectly cast here as Susan, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the part (though many were considered). As Peary so accurately describes her, Susan is “a sexy, sweet, cocky, casually amoral, totally irresponsible (but forgivable) live-one-minute-at-a-time hedonist who follows her own drumbeat” — in other words, someone it’s easy to imagine stifled housewife Rosanna Arquette longing to emulate.

Arquette herself is as wonderful as always; this proved to be her most iconic role as well, and it’s fascinating to know that she originally envisioned herself as Susan. She’s surrounded by memorable supporting actors (including Aidan Quinn, Laurie Metcalf, and Robert Joy), and countless “cameos” by performers such as Rockets Red Glare and Giancarlo Esposito. But the best “performance” in the film is New York itself — Seidelmen perfectly captures “the mind-draining suburbia” of the city’s outskirts, as well as “crazy, festive, seductive, always crowded lower Manhattan.” While the storyline is undeniably preposterous, it is, as noted by Peary, “enjoyably” so. Indeed, it’s hard not to get caught up in Roberta and Susan’s wild exploits as they maneuver their way through this incomparable city of artists, killers, drifters, and housewives.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Rosanna Arquette as Roberta
  • Madonna in her best film role
  • Laurie Metcalf as Roberta’s sister-in-law
  • Aidan Quinn as Dez
  • Robert Joy as Susan’s boyfriend
  • Good use of authentic New York locales
    New York

Must See?
Yes, for its historical popularity.



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