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TIFF 2022 Review: Susie Searches – “A lot of fun and nothing overly serious”

Courtesy of TIFF

As a young girl in Ohio, Susie (Kiersey Clemons) and her mother would read detective novels together.  The only problem was, Susie would always spoil the ending.  It seems she had a special talent for solving the crime at hand, something her mother said she should share with the world.  Fast forward to her college years, and Susie, now caring for her mom who has multiple sclerosis, has embraced the world of podcasting, creating a true crime series called Susie Searches.  Once she finds success, she tells her mom she’ll buy them a new house, she’ll use her talents to provide them a better life.

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Problem is, no one is clicking that subscribe button.  Week after week, she puts posters on the college community board advertising her newest episodes.  She records frequently, enunciating each word carefully, but to no avail.  That is until a classmate, Jesse Wilcox (Alex Wolff), himself a small-time ‘celebrity’ for his online meditation videos, goes missing.  Now Susie is determined to find him and solve the crime, something the town’s Sheriff (Jim Gaffigan) and his protein-shake-obsessed deputy (David Walton) seem unable to do.  And, if it just happens to propel her show into the spotlight, what’s the harm?

Director Sophie Kargman‘s future debut stems from a 2020 short film of the same name, and the premise is a good one.  Clemons as our braces-wearing heroine is energetic and likeable, injecting Susie with an almost childlike naiveté.  A smile is her character’s natural resting face.  Susie is equal parts charismatic and awkward and with her social media and podcasting savvy, could be this generation’s Nancy Drew.  You need only look at the success of Only Murders In the Building and Knives Out to see how much audiences love a good, and comedic, whodunnit.  And Susie Searches delivers in this sort of genre.

And that’s what Sophie Kargman creates here – a lot of fun and nothing overly serious.  There are a few thrilling moments, but this stylish debut leans further to the comedic side, adding Ken Marino as Susie’s repellent boss and an absolutely scene-stealing Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby, Bodies Bodies Bodies) as her mean-girl co-worker.  Susie Searches is a film that can bask in all the laughs and surprises it serves up alongside its darker undertones.

But, without providing spoilers, this whodunnit is given away pretty early in the game.  It’s an interesting choice and whether or not you really like this film might stem on that decision alone.  Because this becomes less of a ‘who’, not even really a ‘why’ but more of a ‘will they get away with it?’ sort of scenario.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns still to enjoy.  There is nothing truly straightforward in Susie Searches, which is all part of the fun.  No one is as they seem.  Everyone is talking, but no one is truly listening.

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