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Desperately Seeking Susan

Fifteen years after its initial release, Desperately Seeking Susan stands as both a charming little movie and a brilliant artifact of the 1980s. Rosanna Arquette (still looking too young for the role) plays Roberta Glass, a bored New Jersey housewife who becomes obsessed with the exploits of Jim and Susan, a wild-and-crazy couple who leave messages for each other in the personals. In the course of the remarkably complicated plot, Roberta gets bonked on the head, loses her memory, is mistaken for Susan, falls for Aidan Quinn's blue eyes, and is menaced by a killer looking for stolen Egyptian earrings. Strip away the torn fishnets and the techno-pop soundtrack, and the story is the sort of mistaken-identity screwball comedy that would have once starred June Allison or Carole Lombard. Roberta's suburban existence is a far cry from that of her role-model Susan (Madonna), whom we quickly learn is a promiscuous, conscienceless liar who dresses like, well, Madonna. Madonna in the '80s to be precise — a look that was unfortunately copied by legions of teenage girls (much to the delight, no doubt, of teenage boys). It's sort of amazing to look back at Madonna's first film appearance and realize that her job was to play herself — and she was just barely competent at it. But flat line readings aside, Susan is an interesting character in that she's supposed to be such a Bad Girl, but the worst things she does are smoke cigarettes and wear her underwear on the outside of her clothes. She's Britney Spears in Goodwill duds — it's hard to conceive that the world once found her so shocking. The cast is rounded out with an amazing slate of not-yet-famous faces: Will Patton, Robert Joy, John Turturro, Steven Wright, Ann Magnuson and Michael Badalucco. Good widescreen transfer (1.85:1), pan-and-scan on the flip side, the original Dolby 2.0 Surround. Commentary with director Susan Seidelman, MGM exec Barbara Boyle and producers Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford, alternate ending, trailer. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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