Desperately Seeking Susan

Rosanna Arquette plays Roberta Glass, a young woman who’s hung up on Susan (Madonna), a beautiful stranger who organises romantic liaisons through the personals section of a New York newspaper. She tries to meet Susan, but when she’s knocked on the head she forgets her own identity and, like a prayer answered, she ends up living Susan’s life. This is made all the more tricky by Susan’s unfortunate entanglements with the mob.

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Like many eighties comedies, Susan prioritises plot over laughs. It has intricate plotting which is a hallmark of the decade, such as in Three Men and a Baby, Tootsie and Twins. And like all those films it also has a plot that revolves around criminal entanglements which were clearly in vogue.

While the action and horror genres stripped away their stories to quivering skeletons, which could be summed up in 4 minutes, the comedies went big, with two hour running times and more plot developments than your average gangster movie.

As a result Susan takes a while to get into the groove. The plot involves misunderstandings about what’s going on by many different characters, and several highly unlikely coincidences to bring this about. But once established it plays out with hilarious consequences.

Madonna is well-cast as Susan in her first Hollywood venture, around the time she was starting out in music. While it may be her first major role, she doesn’t act like a virgin, and deserves to take a bow. She does an excellent job as the ultra-confident, sexy, chain-smoking Susan as long as she isn’t talking. She’s no Cher in Moonstruck, after all.

Rosanna Arquette provides a likably plain counterpoint, making this well-directed flick cause for celebration. You’ll be crazy for this ray of light. If you open your heart to it you’ll justify your love for it. Sorry, that one was borderline.

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