Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Susie Searches: Movie Review

A darkly comedic, unsettling delight.

Susie (Kiersey Clemons) is an unpopular, socially awkward college student who grew up on detective novels, now takes care of her mother suffering from MS and runs a true crime podcast taking on the recent case of the missing student she goes to school with. Viewers beware of anybody who gives away more than that as there are sure to be spoilers abound.   2022

Directed by: Sophie Kargman

Screenplay by: William Day Frank, Sophie Kargman

Starring: Kiersey Clemons, Alex Wolff

The first big twist occurs less than 30 minutes in, and the film does a perfect job leading the audience to it. Anything more abrupt and it’d be losing some repulsed viewers. I suspect this will be a divisive film, but I really enjoyed the twisty path it takes us on.

The casting is a lot of fun. Kiersey Clemons as Susie is your annoying classmate. The girl who pays attention in class who the teachers all adore, and the girl who annoys everybody else when she adds little tidbits from the extra reading she did and expects everyone to care about the same issues that she does. Alex Wolff co-stars as Jesse, a social media-famous classmate who was kidnapped. The more famous names drop in to keep things light which is a must when things get more disturbing.

Jim Gaffigan is the local Sheriff, best described as a nice idiot; David Walton is the local Deputy, best described as a mean idiot; and Ken Marino is Susie’s boss at a fast food/convenience store type establishment, and he’s the creepy idiot.

Things take a dark turn early, but the film balances that out with a really fun off-kilter score – some discordant piano chords just to make sure you’re still paying attention. Meanwhile the action is unfolding in the autumn underneath the glorious fall colours in small town America. You’re meant to feel comfortable until you realize how disturbing it is.

There’s a red herring right around the second big twist which led me astray from what we were actually learning about the protagonist. A lot is said about who Susie really is, but there are little nuggets of fallen clues all along the path of golden leaves that add even more. The film also, for the most part, stays out of the social media discourse. Susie is trying to grow the popularity of her podcast, but just to monetize it to make money, other than that her online persona isn’t anything significant. Jesse, the missing student, has a popular YouTube account and mentions his obsession with popularity but otherwise it’s not a big discussion point.

Fans of the movie should be prepared for some Not Okay style backlash; a movie that needed a disclosure for its unlikable heroine. Susie Searches is simultaneously more grounded and more unhinged. The film feels like it was made in a cozy, intimate fashion which allows viewers to get more wrapped up in the dark and disturbing tale. Just remember folks, crime doesn’t pay.