Sunday, November 30, 2008

Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

No one is more surprised than me that I actually watched this 80’s movie starring Madonna. I mean, COME ON! I remember when this movie came out, and I pegged it then as a lame vanity project to cash in on Madonna’s popularity. In fairness, I’ll say that I read up on the movie and learned that Madonna wasn’t even the first actress considered for the role. In any event, I gave it a huge skip, because I wasn’t a fan then, and I’m still not. I know, ever since the famous “Madonna discussion” in “Reservoir Dogs” it’s been okay for guys to admit they like Madonna. I’m just not one of those guys.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, I must say I don’t get what the big deal is about Madonna. She’s a pretty lady with an okay voice who co-writes fairly catchy songs. I’m okay with people digging on her pop-py music, but for some reason the world seems determined to give her way more credit than she deserves. I bought a new pair of pants the other day, but people aren’t falling all over themselves to congratulate me on my uncanny ability to “re-invent” myself in order to “stay relevant.” I can also play the guitar a little, just like about half the people I know. When Madonna learned a few chords, though, it was “a courageous move” that “legitimized her as an artist.” I mean, really. The girl has spent the last 30 years getting paid for hanging out in studios and traveling around with a bunch of musicians. It would have been shocking if she HADN”T learned to play an instrument in all that time. As for the feat of maintaining her stardom for three decades, it’s impressive, but I consider it mostly a commentary on the world’s appetite for sparkly mediocrity. McDonald's is popular, too, folks.

Now that we’ve established that I’m not a starry-eyed Madonna fan, I’ll admit that this movie was alright. Susan (Madonna) is supposed to be a lovably incorrigible New York free spirit rocker chick. To me she looks more like a lying thief who rips off her friends and bails on them, but since she is played by Madonna, I think we are supposed to like her anyway. She steals some cash and a pair of earrings from her latest boyfriend. When the earrings turn out to be stolen Egyptian artifacts, her life takes a dangerous turn. Rosanna Arquette plays Roberta, a bored New Jersey housewife who becomes obsessed with recurring personal ads between Susan and another boyfriend named Jim. She spies on one of their meet-ups and tries to take on a little of Susan’s zany, 80’s Boho style. When she gets mistaken for Susan, then suffers an amnesia-inducing coma, she gets to live Susan’s life for a little while. Hi-jinks ensue.

This was my wife’s pick, and she insisted that is was “an art movie.” Actually, the film does have a bit of that Sundance feel of a small movie that isn’t trying to be a big one. That sense of knowing its own limits saves this from being another piece of un-watchable 80’s crud. The acting and the story aren't anything special, but they are adequate to the film’s ambitions, making it a mildly amusing diversion. I don’t see myself buying the DVD, but I’m not suing to get my two hours back either.

2.5 stars out of 5

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