You Bought A Used Jacket? What Are We Poor?: Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

I am a huge proponent of reconsidering the classic eighties films that for one reason or another managed to become second rate to their more successful contemporaries, particularly when the films manage to achieve a certain cult status, which is certainly true for a personal favorite of mine in Repo Man, as well as the recently reviewed Earth Girls Are Easy.  Of course I cannot love every film and certainly am not adoring of everything produced, although I tend to be pretty favorable for most works reviewed on this blog, however, I occasionally just do not enjoy a film, 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan stands to be one of those films, which is not to say it is bad or anything, but is simply nothing I found profound or deserved of its seemingly unquestioned cult status.  While the film certainly possessed a degree of quotability and a rather stellar cast for the era, including many of my favorite actors from the works of Jarmusch and Lee, it falls short so obviously that it cannot justify a high level of praise.  Furthermore, the main factor in me not completely dismissing the film resides in its being directed by a woman a feet that was rare in the 80's and still proves quite uncommon even today.  In fact, I find myself perplexed as to its sustained popularity, perhaps it is due to some brief nudity on the part of both lead actresses respectively, although if one were to seek a piece of media solely for a naked Madonna, it seems as though this rather forgotten film of the eighties is a bit out of ones way.  To be fair I did read a handful of reviews on the film as a means to attempt to sway my feelings towards the "cult classic," and while this did not prove successful I have been led to believe that Desperately Seeking Susan does reflect the wild and wily ways of the hip crowds and individuals occupying upper class New York during the time something I find myself surprisingly turned off by, as was the case with Metropolitan a film of which I should have loved, but found off putting in its distancing.  Honestly, Desperately Seeking Susan is not an awful film, it is actually considerably decent, however, the world portrayed and the methods of narration enacted were far from something I desired to embrace

The film, taking the famous lines of newspaper classified, expands on this notion to suggest that somewhere in New York City a couple uses this unusual form of communication to meet up on rendezvous, in this case the appropriately named Susan (Madonna) and Jim (Robert Joy) whose relationship is considerably strained since Susan appears to be a part time prostitute, while Jim is clearly preoccupied with seeing his band succeed, nonetheless, the duo manages to make things work, while becoming engaged "accidentally" within mob activities.  Enters Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) a rather disillusion housewife, whose husband Gary (Mark Blum) engages in the selling of pool and spas and rarely pays attention to his wife, who according to other may have suffered from a severe lack of sexual satisfaction.  In an attempt to add variety to her mundane life, Roberta decides to tag along to one of Susan and Jim's classified adds, in which she hopes to meet the lovebirds and undertake a bit of vicarious happiness, yet through a rather tragic twist of fate and the obtaining of one of Susan's signature clothing items only days earlier, Roberta is mistaken for Susan, leading to her being attacked by a mafia hit man.  After slipping and hitting her head, Roberta loses consciousness only to awake to Dez (Aidan Quinn), a friend sent by Jim to meet Susan and not having any memory due to her brief unconsciousness, she assumes herself to be Susan, causing Dez to take her back to his place and protect her from the unknown attacker.  The rest of the movie, suffice to say, focuses on the issues of the miscommunication by everyone involved, particularly since everyone appears to have an issue to hide, all of which explodes in a final and admittedly hilarious confrontation, involving humorous use of Madonna's own music, in a tip of the hat moment of meta filmmaking.  Also something involving a stolen pair of earrings seems pertinent to the larger story, all be it a bit forced.

As one could expect from a major film of the eighties, especially such a liberal leaning, feminist oriented film (again it would seem a perfect film for my palette) the narrative focuses on the tragedies of capitalist desires and conspicuous consumption, most blatantly in the character of Gary, who demands that everyone at a party view his commercial, which of course has a unique place in Marxist rhetoric in that it is a product with value that is designed to promote another product with a value.  Yet no amount of financial comfort or clear monetary success seems to prove fulfilling for Gary, let alone Roberta who suffers from another level of dissatisfaction.  In contrast we have Susan, engaging in prostitution, which is popularly known as the worlds oldest profession, but something with no quantifiable value, save for unfortunate cases involving STD's, which problematizes notions of capitalist associations of monetary value when it is purely for a qualitative act.  Yet, even Susan who engages in the problematic act of prostitution consumes conspicuously, however, she uses a bartering system to obtain her desire items, in the case of the narrative a jacket.  Her free movement from house to train station, also contests notions of capitalist power, because much of value is predicated on possession of private property.  If the film played more into these commentaries and the issues surrounding them, perhaps then I would be completely enamored with Desperately Seeking Susan, tragically none of this proves to be the case and instead the film plays too much into burgeoning or suppressed sexualities, without really even revolutionizing the discussions around both.  Perhaps the real tragedy of the film is its desire to comment on every problem in America without properly approaching anything specific.

Key Scene:  I guess if one were to be picked I would go with the train station scene involving Susan initially as it is a considerably solid introduction to the characters lifestyle and subsequently their psyche.

This is a film to avoid for the most part, although I know many people do love it quite a bit, as such I will leave the decision up to others.


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