Susie Searches [TIFF22 Review]

What will you do for fame? How far are you willing to go to achieve what you have always dreamed of? In a world where social media following is at the center of everything, it isn’t difficult to wonder how far one would take to achieve their dreams.

When one of her college classmates Jesse (Alex Wolff), disappears, Susie (Kiersey Clemons), a true-crime podcast enthusiast, starts investigating his disappearance, hoping it will make her famous.

With the expansion of her short film, director Sophie Kargman crafts a smart and witty film that relies heavily on its editing and Clemons’ performance. But that isn’t a bad thing; Susie Searches is the perfect example that sometimes editing makes a film and elevates it.

Using as many tools as possible to create a story is precisely what filmmaking should be about, and this film understands that. While the film is really in your face, the story needs that. It is a story about craving for fame and following, how far you are willing to go to create that and using over-the-top editing showcases that. The cuts and superimpositions are needed to create the feelings and emotions the film needs.

In a world where clicks and follows are everything, where being famous on the internet is needed to feel seen and loved, Susie Searches takes that idea to the extreme. Being “fake” on the internet is normal and is expected; no one is 100% themselves online, creating a persona that is put on to be liked. Jesse and Susie are sides of the same coin. 

Both claim to be authentic online. Jesse is an influencer who preaches kindness and the benefits of meditation. At the same time,  Susie tries to solve cold cases by using the gift she has had since a young age to guess who the culprit is in every detective novel her mother has read her. But while one is beloved, the other is invisible at every turn. Susie craves to be a star and thinks the podcast is her way to do it, while Jesse seems uninterested in his “fame.”

This contrast becomes more evident as the film deeps deeper into both their psyche and what they indeed are behind their screens.  The script is clever with how it reveals information, making doubt and question so much and yet, not hiding anything. The film is unpredictable, never letting you think you know what will happen next. When you think you have it figured out, it just does a u-turn and surprises you once again.

There is much to love about Sophie Kargman’s feature-length directorial debut. The blend of genre mixing dark humour with a hint of horror perfectly, the film encapsulates this idea that we all have of being famous and what it would be like, and how great it would feel. Most of us might not be ready to go to the extreme that Susie goes to, but the story might not feel so far-fetched, especially in a world where a large part of the population is obsessed with true crime; it tells a lot about our world.

The entire cast brings their A game, with Clemons and Wolff getting a lot of material to shine with, but there is no doubt that everyone deserves their flowers for this film. Everyone gets their moment, from the always reliable and funny Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby) to the underused Jim Gaffigan. Still, the film belongs to Clemons, who continues her incredible work. It is different from what we have seen her in before, and she loses herself in a role that asks a lot out of her. 

Susie Searches blends genre in a way that elevates it; paired with an innovative director who uses all of the tools at her disposal, it creates a film that surprises you at every turn and, by the end, has you laughing, cringing and stressed out as Susie goes to all the extreme to become a star.