Part Only Murders in the Building, part Nancy Drew, and part Wednesday, Susie Searches is a charming, appealingly quirky little mystery with some genuinely surprising twists. Stylish and well-acted, this story about an earnest, ambitious armchair detective (played by Kiersey Clemons) marks the feature directorial debut of Sophie Kargman, who co-wrote the screenplay with William Day Frank based on their 2020 short, also titled Susie Searches, in which Kargman originated the title role.
Susie is a smart, observant, but awkward college student who has a particular knack for figuring out the whodunnits she loves sharing with her mother. Susie dreams of solving her very own big case someday, volunteering at the local sheriff’s department and channeling all of her enthusiasm for clues and suspects into the true-crime podcast she diligently records and promotes … even though nobody’s listening. It seems as though her dream finally comes true when her classmate Jesse (Alex Wolff) disappears, and Susie is the one who tracks him down and rescues him.
Susie basks in the glow of Jesse’s heartfelt gratitude and the public attention she receives for her detective work. Everything finally seems to be going her way — or is it? Sharing anything more about the movie’s plot would be to give away its most entertaining pivots, so suffice it to say that you probably don’t know exactly where the story is going (and even if you think you do, you’ll still have some surprises in store). Kargman and Frank’s script moves briskly enough that there’s always something new to react to or think about.
The production design and cinematography are slick — especially for a smaller movie — and the supporting cast boasts appearances by familiar, talented comedians like Ken Marino, Jim Gaffigan, Dolly Wells, and SNL’s Alex Moffat. But this is Clemons’ movie more than anyone else’s, and she delivers. Susie is always appealing, even when she’s making mistakes or dealing with the aftermath of those mistakes. As Susie’s mother has told her her whole life, she’s worth paying attention to, and so is this film. — Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Pam Grady: Shy, lifelong outcast Susie (Kiersey Clemons) has had a lifelong knack for solving mysteries, a talent she hopes will gain her followers for her true-crime podcast. But while her show gains no traction, her college classmate Jesse’s (Alex Wolff) meditation YouTube channel has amassed a huge following. When he goes missing and Susie takes on the case, the popularity that has eluded Susie for her entire life is suddenly her reality. Presented initially as a kind of takeoff on the burgeoning true-crime corner of the media marketplace, what emerges in Sophie Kargman’s debut feature is something else entirely, at once a meditation on our era’s obsession with fame and a psychological portrait of a lonely young woman determined to escape the narrow contours of her life by any means necessary. Clemons is terrific in embodying Susie’s many contradictions, her sunny awkward demeanor covering dark ambition.
Sherin Nicole Everyone—no matter how nefarious or nice—is the hero of their story. This gives antagonists and anti-heroes their pull. It also draws us into Susie Searches. But there’s something else. Those of us who stand behind the curtain of influencer-based entertainment are often like The Wizard, wearing a grand mask to hide fragilities or darker things. Read more
Jamie Broadnax Susie Searches is filled with whimsy and its lead, Kiersey Clemons, offers a flavor of quirkiness that makes this film pretty exceptional. Clemons plays the titular character Susie, an inquisitive girl who runs a true crime podcast. Her curiosity gets the best of her when a fellow classmate Jesse (Alex Wolff) goes missing, which leads down an unexpected dark path. Under the direction of Sophie Kargman and along with some incredible production design the color and tone of this film serves as a supporting character in this film which is executed brilliantly. Clemons and Wolff have incredible chemistry on screen and deliver impressive performances in this dark comedy which should definitely be on your must-see list
Nikki Fowler: Uber-talented Kiersey Clemons is always a delight to watch on screen, and she doesn’t disappoint in what begins as a quirky Nancy Drew-esque thriller directed by Sophie Kargman. The film starts off having a very inviting bubbly teen drama vibe and quickly shifts to a much darker tone than expected when Susie, a lonely teen who grew up with an incredible ability to solve crimes, becomes the ultimate sleuth who is, at best, an unrecognized geeky outcast at school and online. That is until she helps solve a case of a kidnapped classmate, Jessie, which catapults her into an internet sensation when he’s found alive, thanks to her savvy detective skills. Rachel Sennott, as her irritated fast food gig coworker, and Alex Wolff, as Jessie, were both naturally quirky and complimented Clemons on screen for this youthful and, at times, uncomfortable satirical thriller that questions what one may do to become famous. The cinematography is inviting, and the score is modern, fresh, and haunting. The tonal shifts throughout were risky and may not be for everyone, but if you enjoy films that keep you guessing, this may just be for you.
Leslie Combemale The co-directors chose their lead well in Kiersey Clemons, who does a great job at not telegraphing where the story is going, and allows the audience lots of choices in terms of allegiance. The camera work is almost another character, but never becomes distracting, nor does it go too over the top. There’s so a strong collaborative feeling to the performances and the way they play against each other. It’s not entirely new as a story, but adds a flavor to the mystery coming-of-age subgenre not offered in quite this way before, while centering a strong Black female lead.
Jennifer Merin Susie Searches is an enjoyably affable coming of age thriller about a teenage girl who is known for her uncanny ability to solve seemingly unsolvable crimes, and who shares the details of her her super sleuth searches and suspicions on her popular podcast. She’s also determined to further investigations by the local sheriff’s office where she is an intern. But, up close and personal, Susie is actually rather shy and, wrapped up in the coming of age issues of self esteem and teenage sexual curiosity, she hides her vulnerability behind a smile that shines through aqua-colored braces. Read more.
Sandie Angulo Chen: Susie Searches is a clever coming-of-age mystery about a lonely, socially awkward Ohio college student who produces the titular true-crime podcast that takes off after she finds where a missing classmate has been kept captive. Directed and co-written by Sophie Kargan –who starred in the short film on which this feature is based — the movie benefits from Kiersey Clemons’ excellent performance. She manages to make Susie a complicated character that audiences will root for, even when she makes disturbing decisions. Alex Wolff stands out as the handsome influencer Susie saves from kidnapping, and Jim Gaffigan gives good-dad vibes as the local sheriff. A surprisingly thoughtful exploration of our collective obsession with true-crime and social media visibility, as well as the universal need for connection and intimacy.
Loren King Kiersey Clemons, who gave such a memorable early performance in the underrated father/daughter indie Hearts Beat Loud, holds this intriguing film together. She is the Susie of the title, a young, amateur sleuth with a podcast in search of listeners. Director Sophie Kargman, who co-wrote the film with William Day Frank, has something interesting to say about the search for internet validation and the allure of true crime. When Susie stages and solves the abduction of popular classmate Jesse (Alex Wolff, delivering another standout performance), she basks in the newfound attention until the walls start closing in. The dark humor, social commentary and tonal shifts reminded me of Gus Van Sant’s prescient To Die For as Susie Searches offers an uncomfortable but fascinating melding of crime and self-worth in the media age.
Liz Whittemore Kiersey Clemons, who gave such a memorable early performance in the underrated father/daughter indie Hearts Beat Loud, holds this intriguing film together. She is the Susie of the title, a young, amateur sleuth with a podcast in search of listeners. Director Sophie Kargman, who co-wrote the film with William Day Frank, has something interesting to say about the search for internet validation and the allure of true crime. When Susie solves the abduction of popular classmate Jesse (Alex Wolff, delivering another standout performance), she basks in the newfound attention until the walls start closing in. The dark humor, social commentary and tonal shifts reminded me of Gus Van Sant’s prescient To Die For as Susie Searches offers an uncomfortable but fascinating melding of crime and self-worth in the media age.
Cate Marquis Sincere, smiling and hard-working college student Susie Wallis (Kiersey Clemons) has always had an unerring knack for figuring out mysteries, going back to her childhood when her mother would read her mysteries stories. Her social media site, “Susie Searches,” features her super-sleuthing skills as she solves true-crime mysteries. Susie hopes to become an internet sensation, and make enough money to give her and her mother, now bed-ridden with MS, a more comfortable life. But “Susie Searches” isn’t taking off as hoped, unlike the meditation site hosted by campus hunk Jesse (Alex Wolff). When Jesse suddenly goes missing, Susie seizes the opportunity to solve the mystery and make “Susie Searches” a hit. Cute and colorful, SUSIE SEARCHES is a “girl detective” mystery story in the Nancy Drew mode – until it isn’t. Actor-turned-director Sophie Kargman turns this sunny tale in a wholly unexpected direction. As Susie, Kiersey Clemons is impressive, as the title character finds her way through the plot’s twists. In her feature film directorial debut, Kargman takes the script she co-wrote with William Day Frank and the idea of their short film, and transforms it into a tale you don’t see coming, until it is right upon you.
Title: Susie Searches
Director: Sophie Kargman
Release Date: July 28, 2023
Running Time: 105 minutes
Screenwriter: Sophie Kargman
Distribution Company: Vertical Entertainment
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Jamie Broadnax, Leslie Combemale, Nikki Fowler, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore
Edited by Jennifer Merin