#TIFF22 On Sophie Kargman’s Susie Searches (2022)

by Jennifer Valencia

Susie Wallis (Kiersey Clemons) is an awkward young woman holding down part-time school, a job at Burger Bonanza, and an internship at the Sheriff’s office all while being the primary caregiver to her mother who has MS. She is quirky, unpopular with almost everyone she encounters and carries herself more like a freshman in high school than a college student despite having more responsibility than most people around her. Susie has one passion and that passion is true crime. Since she was a child she would read detective stories with her mother. She has a podcast called “Susie Searches” where she dives deep into unsolved mysteries in search for the truth. Her ambitions for her podcast are high and her thirst for the truth strong. So strong that she puts her pursuit of fame over her pursuit for the truth.

Susie Searches is a fun dark comedy that chips away at the surface to reveal a darker side to internet fame. While director Sophie Kargman doesn’t reveal anything new about this topic, she does bring the subject into focus in a time when internet fame has become the new route to celebrity status.

We live in a world of social media and podcasts. These mediums along with streaming services have been our main source of entertainment and information, especially since the pandemic. There are thousands of people out there looking to make a name for themselves through influence culture. There is nothing wrong with this as I myself am walking along this path but what most people don’t realize when they start off is that it isn’t as easy as making a video and posting it on the internet. Going “viral” is so much more work than that. It is labour intensive and a never ending pursuit. Susie posts podcast episode after podcast episode and the most engagement she gets are from trolls. No one is listening and Susie becomes so desperate to make her and her podcast popular that she does the unthinkable.

When one of her fellow classmates, Jessie Wilcox (Alex Wolff) , a minor internet celebrity known for his Youtube meditation videos, goes missing she focuses her energy in finding him. While her intentions seem noble, once he is found safely and reunited with his family we soon find out that her interest in the case was more sinister than sincere. This is when the bubbly first act filled with bright colours turns into a darker second act with more dark jewel tones. There is a shift in both the look and feel of the film that people may find baffling but I know exactly what is happening. We have reached the cavernous point of no return.

Things start to go south for Susie here and she works hard to keep it together, using her knowledge of the true crime genre to stay one step ahead of Sheriff Loggins (Jim Gaffign) but in the end she has flown too close to the sun.

Susie has found a way to piggyback off of Jessie’s fame and has herself entered the realm of social media stardom. Dealing with the trauma of his kidnapping Jessie becomes more and more vulnerable and befriends Susuie. Susie is eager to ride the wave of attention they are receiving as victim and rescuer, while Jessie would rather not. Once confident and charismatic, Jessie seems lost and unsure of everything and everyone while Susie becomes more bold and daring all while maintaining her awkward persona. The performances by both Clemons and Wolff are worth mentioning here. Clemons disappears into the role as a shy and ambitious detective that has a secret. The way she talks through her pink and blue braces is endearing. Wolff’s portrait of the once almost arrogant YouTube star who is now dealing with PTSD and is splitting open at the seams (he reveals to Susie that he doesn’t even know how to meditate) stands out amongst the comedic talents of the supporting cast comprising of Jim Gaffign, David Walton, Ken Marino, and Rachel Sennott.

The film takes a dip in stamina between the second and third act but Kargman’s use of creative visuals, use of colour, and play with dark and light in the film keeps you engaged throughout. Susie Searches is a fun take on the true crime/detective story. A quirky look at the destructive nature of internet popularity. It’s the darker side of Nancy Drew and I am here for it.

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