Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) - Rotten Tomatoes

Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Desperately Seeking Susan Trailers & Photos

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, Rovimore
Rating: PG-13 (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Leora Barish, Craig Bolotin
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 13, 2000
Box Office: $27.4M
MGM Home Entertainment


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 Frien...
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 Saxophoni...
Joyce Griffen
as Prostitute
Richard S. Lowy
as Adrian the Hairdress...
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
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Desperately Seeking Susan

Critic Reviews for Desperately Seeking Susan

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (5)

All of this is cause for consistent smiling and a few outright laughs, without ever building to complete comedy.

Full Review… | May 23, 2008
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | May 23, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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.

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

It has its moments, and many of them involve the different kinds of special appeal that Arquette and Madonna are able to generate.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Director Susan Seidelman guides her cast with a light, enthusiastic touch, never making more out of her frothy material than need be.

Full Review… | May 23, 2008
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Featuring the first (and only decent) screen performance by Madona, this charming comedy imposes the old fracical gimmick of amnesia on a hip and stylish East Village milieu.

Full Review… | June 20, 2006

Audience Reviews for Desperately Seeking Susan

The full five star rating for this one as it is a movie I loved when I was about 11 and Madonna was my all time favorite singer (that changed two albums in when she became crap, but anyhow, at this stage she could do no wrong). This is the perfect role for Madonna - I guess because she pretty much plays herself. A bit obnoxious, and willing to use her sexuality to get her own way (I never realized how much of this movie she spends in her bra until I re watched it last night. Rosanna Arquette, also perfect here. She is the more relatable character of the two. Still very attractive, but lacking Susan's confidence, which I guess it's so great that it ends as it does.
Won't go on too much as I am sure most people have seen this one by now, but if you haven't, it is pretty much the ultimate chick flick and full of great 80's fashions to top it off.

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

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

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, Desperately Seeking Susan, a title that makes me want to defend adverbs, is a film-by-numbers cliche, but there are a few minor redeeming qualities.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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