80s Bits: Desperately Seeking Susan

Desperately Seeking Susan - Madonna

Welcome back to 80s Bits, the weekly column in which we explore the best and worst of the Decade of Shame. With guest writers, hidden gems and more, it’s truly, truly, truly outrageous.

Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

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Desperately Seeking Susan poster

DirectorSusan Seidelman

Writers(s)Leora Barish, Craig Bolotin (uncredited)

Runtime: 104 minutes

StarringRosanna ArquetteAidan QuinnMadonnaRobert JoyLaurie Metcalf

Distributor: Orion Pictures


Rating: Better Than Average Bear (?)

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Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) directed by Susan Seidelman (She-Devil) is possibly one of Madonna’s greatest movie moments throughout her career. This was right at the peak of the 80s grunge fashion and pop culture with the film capitalising on these styles and trends along with the pop star into film fame formula.

The film is filled with coincidences and clichés when Roberta (Rosanna Arquette), frequent reader of the personals, becomes intimately engrossed with the rendezvous of Susan (Madonna) and Jim (Robert Joy). Their sporadic intimate meeting touches a rebellious and free spirited craving in Roberta’s life leading her to almost stalker like tendencies. Little did she know that her yearning for someone else’s life would lead to a lot more that what she bargained for.

Desperately Seeking Susan is full of trend setting looks of the day partly due to Madonna being attached to the label. Only a younger Madge could make swimming in boxers and a bra sexy. Everything she wore seemed to turn into cool, like sporting a business shirt with stockings. Other fashion statements that Madonna seemed to be the ambassador for include junk jewellery, fishnet singlets, headbands and tizzy hair. It was the mystical Egyptian style, that the film’s story was based around, with the case of mistaken identity being due to the Pyramid jacket and the Nefertiti earrings from the Cairo Collection being the reason behind the criminal conspiracy.

Madonna played this role the year following her revolutionary album Like a Virgin and the film launched the release of one of her greatest most recognisable 80s tracks “Into the Groove”. Other notable actors include the dry Laurie Metcalf (TV’s Rosanne) as sister in law Leslie who’s favourite drink is Tab and delivers such lines as “I can’t believe you’re eating during a crisis!…take a Valium like a normal person!”Aidan Quinn plays heartthrob Dez, film jockey and love interest to Roberta’s alter ego Susan.

To be desperate is so romantic.