Desperately Seeking Susan [1985]

This likeable, feminist screwball comedy about several incidents of mistaken identity is remembered more as the film that made Madonna a movie star. She's flip, hip, and energetic as Susan, the wild tramp with whom bored, suburban New Jersey housewife Roberta Glass (Rosanna Arquette) becomes obsessed after reading of her sexual conquests in the personal ads. Of course, since Madonna essentially played herself, the role's hardly a stretch. Director Susan Seidelmen presents a series of zany incidents too complicated to recount, but the result is that Roberta swaps lifestyles with her fixation to explore New Wave culture on New York's Lower East Side. It's territory Seidelmen knew well as her more offbeat, indie debut, Smithereens, reveled in the same setting. But where Smithereens took a more edgy approach to its characters, Susan is a fairy tale romantic comedy, and eventually becomes as conventional as the suburban characters it mocks by settling conflicts with predictable Hollywood formulae. Still, there's much to be enjoyed. The film's at its funniest when juxtaposing New York hip and New Jersey suburbia, like when Arquette's straight, suit-and-tie husband dances with Madonna in a punk club. The performances, too, are engaging, especially Arquette and Aidan Quinn, playing a romantic film projectionist who becomes her grubby Prince Charming. --Dave McCoy

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