It’s written in the entertainers’ bible: If thine image offends thee, try another medium. For music stars straitjacketed by an unwanted reputation, movies offer a handy escape route. With one suitable (and songless) project, acting can (as with Cher) — but doesn’t always (as with Madonna) — drastically alter mass perceptions.

The same can’t be said for Madonna. The material girl just can’t help being herself in Desperately Seeking Susan, her first major feature. Rosanna Arquette carries this silly squares-in-hipville farce about a bored suburban housewife who accidentally assumes the identity of a kooky grifter being pursued by a murderer. The queen of a cast stocked with underground musicians, Madonna cruises on poise and unruly attitude. From the moment she appears, wearing lingerie and leather, lying on the floor of a hotel snapping a Polaroid of herself, Susan (Madonna) is self-absorbed, resourceful, aggressive, irreverent — sound familiar? Madonna recites her lines with dutiful skill, but she can’t stave off reality: When ”Into the Groove” spins during a club scene, you half expect Susan to reach for a mike and start singing. Considering some of her film work leading up to EvitaShanghai Surprise, Who’s That Girl? — she probably should have. B-

Desperately Seeking Susan
  • Movie
  • 104 minutes