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Desperately Seeking Susan

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Movie Info & Cast


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, All Movie Guide


  • Rosanna Arquette
  • Madonna
  • Aidan Quinn
  • Mark Blum
  • Robert Joy
  • Laurie Metcalf
  • Anna Levine
  • Will Patton
  • Peter Maloney
  • Steven Wright

Did You Know?


  • Camel withdrew a $5,000 sponsorship because of the scene in which Dez tells Roberta that she "should stop smoking".
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  • When Susan walks dripping wet from the swimming pool to the poolside chair, her path is already wet from previous takes.
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    • Cigarette Girl: Susan! My God, we all thought you were dead.
    • Susan: I was just in New Jersey.
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Desperately Seeking Susan does not move with the self-confidence that its complicated plot requires. But it has its moments, and many of them involve the different kinds of special appeal that Arquette and Madonna are able to generate. They are very particular individuals, and in a dizzying plot they somehow succeed in creating specific, interesting characters.

Metacritic review by Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times

The film isn't perfect. Seidelman is still pretty much brand-new at this, and there are times when the movie seems about to slip through her fingers, run off into the streets and flow farther, irretrievably, downtown. And the ending has the patness of a studio contrivance; one guesses that had Seidelman been in complete control, something more ambiguous might have resulted. Still, what fun: Good, and good for you, too. Hollywood reaches out and gives someone with talent a chance to make something genuine and offbeat. It's a great system. [01 Apr 1985, p.C4]

Metacritic review by Bill Cosford
Bill Cosford
Miami Herald