Parents' Guide to

Desperately Seeking Susan

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Dated '80s comedy has language and sex.

Movie PG-13 1985 104 minutes
Desperately Seeking Susan Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 14+

... How dare you?

CSM must be completely out of mind. This film is GREAT. Extremely underrated. The film tells the story of a young wife that discovers her inner strength while playing the role of Susan. There are great messages here. First of all, if Roberta wasn’t pulled out of her comfort zone she would never be aware of her own unhappiness and realized she deserves more than that. As for Susan, she starts the film as an bratty and kinda selfish young woman that, after facing death, realizes love is more important and that she needs to take care of the ones who loves her. Let me just say that the performances are great. Very few sexual stuff, the most explicit thing is a woman’s breast that is seen in a very blurred image. Also, the men in this film (except for the husband and the psychopath) are great role models.
age 13+

1985

The same year I was born a fun movie so cool to watch not bad at all.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (1 ):

Desperately Seeking Susan is forced, strained, and overly constructed, an artificial comedy that is hugely, seriously, and ferociously unfunny. Young audiences may wonder about assumptions underlying the primary conflicts set out here -- that the young woman who opts for the comfort and boredom of marriage to a successful New Jersey hot tub retailer would, firstly, dress like a 70-year-old, and, secondly, be interested in spying on a cynical yet free-spirited bohemian dressed in hooker-like see-through tops. The role of clothes and their meaning is overplayed and inconsistent. Why does Roberta wearing a magician's assistant extra-long tutu get arrested for prostitution while Susan, dressed in short shorts and midriff-baring lace tops, does not? In this world, you bump your head and you lose your identity, you buy a used jacket and inherit the troubles of the girl who owned it before. Then you bump your head again and come to realizations that you were never authentically you anyway.

The materialistic booming mid-'80s spawned several other movies about upwardly mobile climbing and the anxieties caused by it, and those movies were equally odd, as if the regularity of normal life were at all times just inches away from a nightmare. Rather than celebrate the feminist notion of strong, independent, self-actualized women as per 1980s aspirations, it trivializes those traits, associating Susan's selfishness and rudeness with independence and Roberta's romanticism and lack of identity with self-actualization. Madonna and Arquette can't be blamed for trying to work their way through this terrible script, but its lack of quality may have had something to with the fact that Madonna's movie career didn't immediately take off after this role even as her singing career at the time made her one of the most famous women in the world. Fun fact: The triplets of the 2018 documentary Three Identical Strangers make an appearance ogling Madonna on a sidewalk.

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