& How to Watch Them:
Smithereens (1982): Susan Berman (not the one Robert Durst definitely murdered) plays Wren, a woman who makes consistently bad choices in New York’s 1980s punk scene. In the last moments you get to see Chris Noth (Mr. Big!) as a male prostitute extra, which is fun.
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985): Rosanna Arquette is a stifled housewife with a jerk husband. Madonna is Madonna. You’ll learn how to dry your pits with a public bathroom hand dryer and look cool as shit eating cheese puffs in your bra by the pool. (Currently on Amazon Prime!)
She-Devil (1989): Roseanne Barr is a stifled housewife. Meryl Streep does her first comic role. Ed Begley Jr. is so good as the greedy, lascivious, self-absorbed husband that Roger Ebert said in his 1989 review of the film he hoped Begley Jr. was being “groomed for a Donald Trump story.” (As of now you can stream it on a website called tubiTV for free - with ads)
Sex and the City (1998): "That's the show about four women acting like gay guys.” - Marge Simpson. Still- check out the first season, our favorite.
Dear Susan Seidelman,
At some point in my youth, She-Devil played on a loop on Lifetime. It was one of my first exposures to dark comedy, the trickiest-but-most-satisfying-when-done-right genre. I loved the tufted pink satin world of Meryl Streep’s romance novelist as much I related to Roseanne Barr’s dark and dorky housewife. Later I saw Desperately Seeking Susan, a movie so dangerously cool I watched in on low volume while my parents slept. It’s a movie that defines the 80s, not just because it’s chock full of amnesia, rare Egyptian artifacts, and Madonna, but because it epitomizes what the decade (and Madonna) was all about: the thrill and pangs of reinvention.
And if anyone feels like Desperately Seeking Susan was too glossy a version of 1980s New York, they can just trot on over to your first film Smithereens, which captures the city in all its trash-filled-vacant-lots glory. It’s so good that it was the first American film ever to compete at Cannes but more importantly it features one of my top ten favorite comedy dialogue scenes ever. You know the one I’m talking about, right? It involves a man, a van, a hooker, and the tuna sandwich her mother made her. It’s the stuff of Apatow wet dreams, a comedy scene so grounded it gets funnier with every line.
And in case you ever doubt your place as the iconic New York director, Susan, I’ll remind you that you directed the pilot and two more episodes of Sex and the City’s first season. Here at iheartfemaledirectors.com Laura and I hold the humble and controversial opinion that season one of Sex and the City is its absolute best and frankly more interesting than what the show later became. But what do we know, we’re both Mirandas!