Desperately Seeking Susan

1985

Desperately Seeking Susan

Critics Consensus

Desperately Seeking Susan works with its fairy tale depiction of New York and the fun, frothy chemistry generated by its two leads.

86%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 28

62%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 30,755
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Movie Info

A petite New Jersey housewife finds self-fulfillment through amnesia in this new wave comedy of errors set in New York's hip '80s downtown scene. Rosanna Arquette stars as Roberta, who turns to the personals for vicarious thrills after her four-year marriage to staid hot tub salesman Gary (Mark Blum) grows stale. Her favorite classified ads trace the romance of Jim (Robert Joy), a struggling musician, and Susan (Madonna), a SoHo vamp who's just narrowly escaped being murdered alongside one of her other boyfriends -- a gangster who recently stole some Egyptian jewelry. Through a series of complicated missteps, Roberta ends up losing her memory and convincing both herself and a broodingly handsome young man named Dez (Aiden Quinn) that she's the elusive, adventurous Susan. Soon, Roberta finds herself being romanced by Dez and pursued separately by her husband, Jim, Susan, and by a murderous mobster who's looking for the stolen jewels. For her second feature outing, which was partially inspired by Jacques Rivette's Celine and Julie Go Boating, director Susan Seidelman filled her cast with hipster extras, downtown personalities, and New York thespians. Notable faces include comedian Steven Wright; future indie mainstay John Turturro; future TV stars Michael Badalucco and Laurie Metcalf; punk singer Richard Hell, who also starred in Seidelman's Smithereens; and performance artist Ann Magnunson, who would star in the director's Making Mr. Right. The big dance-club sequence was filmed at Danceteria, the disco that helped launch Madonna's career. The scene, and the film, helped propel "Into the Groove," one of the singer's all-time club classics, into the charts even though it was actually a b-side to the single "Angel." ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi

Cast

Madonna
as Susan
Rosanna Arquette
as Roberta Glass/'Susan'
Mark Blum
as Gary Glass
Anna Levine
as Crystal
Anne Carlisle
as Victoria
Jose Santana
as Boutique Owner
Giancarlo Esposito
as Street Vendor
Rockets Redglare
as Taxi Driver
Steve Bosh
as Newscaster
Annie Golden
as Band Singer
Ann Magnuson
as Cigarette Girl
John Lurie
as Neighbor Saxophonist
Mary Joy
as Cocktail Waitress
Rosemary Hochschild
as Cocktail Waitress
Iris Chacon
as TV Singer
Victor Argo
as Sgt. Taskal
Shirley Stoler
as Jail Matron
J.B. Waters
as Jail Matron
Arto Lindsay
as Newspaper Clerk
Paul Austin
as Policeman
Timothy Carhart
as Victoria's Boy Friend
Curt Dempster
as Coffee Shop Manager
Henry Adler
as Magic Club Drummer
Lázaro Pérez
as Enrique the Guard
Marty Gold
as Magic Club Pianist
John Hoyt
as Space Commander
Alvy West
as Magic Club Saxophonist
Joyce Griffen
as Prostitute
Richard S. Lowy
as Adrian the Hairdresser
Donna Ritchie
as Hot Tub Girl
Kim Chan
as Park Bum
Michael Badalucco
as Guy from Brooklyn
Harsh Nayyar
as Egyptian Diplomat
Keita Whitten
as Store Customer
Adele Bertei
as Prisoner
Gary Binkow
as Band Member
Peter Castellotti
as Coffee Shop Cop
Stanley Burns
as Ventriloquist
Richard Edson
as Man with Newspapers
Gary Ray
as Band Member
Wendy Dasteel
as Party Guest
Elie J. Boubli
as Egyptian Ambassador
Steve Eidel
as Party Guest
Ilene Kristen
as Party Guest
Carol Leifer
as Party Guest
Richard Portnow
as Party Guest
Isabel Lorca
as Party Guest
Michael Bramon
as Band Member
View All

News & Interviews for Desperately Seeking Susan

Critic Reviews for Desperately Seeking Susan

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (24) | Rotten (4)

  • An attractive, energetic young cast and some witty, off-center visual humor make the resultant laughs more than worth the wait.

    Apr 9, 2019 | Full Review…
  • More central to the popularity of "Susan" is the way it allows the audience to feel hip.

    Jan 2, 2018 | Full Review…
  • "Desperately Seeking Susan" (accurately rated PG-13) is a lark, an exhilarating celebration of people who have the good sense to be in touch with themselves and with each other.

    Dec 6, 2017 | Full Review…
  • All of this is cause for consistent smiling and a few outright laughs, without ever building to complete comedy.

    May 23, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • The film acquires a pleasant, syncopated rhythm as it bounces from one unlikely event to another.

    May 23, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Even if the plotting (a mistaken identity farce involving that old chestnut, amnesia brought on by a bump to the head) is square as a square peg. Madonna has never found a better fit than the role of Susan.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Desperately Seeking Susan

  • Aug 30, 2011
    Mistaken identity and amnesia cause a plain housewife to trade lives with a mercurial punk rocker. I think the draw of this film is the cultural milieu it captured. The 80s punk scene is personified by Madonna's Susan, and I can see why some would find the depiction appealing. After all, such counter-culture movements were, and are, portrayed in negative terms, and there's no judgment in this film: infidelity, random sexual escapades, and a odd fashion sense are all upheld. If anything, the establishment is the villain. But the film is a pile of stinking cliches. Amnesia and mistaken identity are about the oldest ploys I can think of, and it's not hard to predict who ends up with whom. And Madonna's performance doesn't evince a real character, a complete person; rather, she's just a stand-in for the cultural movement she represents. Overall, <i>Desperately Seeking Susan</i>, a title that makes me want to defend adverbs, is a film-by-numbers cliche, but there are a few minor redeeming qualities.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Oct 14, 2010
    characteristics of some action thriller or eighties mainstay. Even with Madonna's star power it isn't some icon in pop culture or memorable flop. This was originally some star making oppurtunity for Rosanna Arquette, who is the main character of this film. Her character is the dullest of everyone, not respressed, not uber religious, and she doesn't have any attributes that would suggest rebellion other than blandness. Her husband at least cheats, lies, and does drugs. Madonna's character is also boring, but in the out of place misfit way. The only main difference in her compared to everyone else is her attire, which was out of place next to the yuppie moneybags of Wall Street, but by 1985 had gone mainstream. Madonna does some of her worst acting here, not that she was that great an actress to begin with. The plot is so obvious and banal, and right when I thought they would go somewhere else with it, it faltered and died. The mistaken personality gambit was just as cliched as ever, and nothing new came of it. The only deciding factor in a person's enjoyment of this was the charm of nostalgia, the soundtrack and clothes and blithe attitudes of the disenfranchised was such a trip down history lane. Madonna really clinches it, but it doesn't hurt that extras included John Turturro, Steven Wright, Laurie Metcalf. The best aspect is the relationship between Rosanna Arquette and Aiden Quinn, the unknown hipster love interest of the nineties, ala Benny and Joon. It was quirky, cute, and extremely sweet, but doomed from the start.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 06, 2010
    Maybe Madonna wasn't the best actress, but it doesn't matter in this movie, the story is good and interesting and funny. Plus Arquette gives a good performance, which makes up for Madonna's. I really enjoyed this movie, it's charming.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Apr 05, 2010
    It's an ok movie about mistaken identity but I think it would have been a lot better had the movie been about Arquette and Madonna hanging out rather than being apart for nearly the whole flick. It was a little slow at parts and there was one thing in the plot that made me roll my eyes a little but it was watchable. Very 80's and that was worth the price for the walk down memory lane as I was a fan of that decade.
    Jason S Super Reviewer

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