A Texas teenager cuts her hair short and becomes an outlaw martyr with her brother and friends.
One of the true 1985 essential films of that year, “The Legend of Billie Jean” is a movie that has taken quite some time to arrive for viewers (let alone bluray). The DVD itself wasn’t released until year 2011 with its bluray finally shelving in 2014.
I tend to place this film into a “cult” film category, however it is actually better classified somewhere between a “guilty pleasure-remembered-film’ and stereotypical-80s-formula-driven movie. With that said, I still enjoy watching this film over and over again. It’s a film with charm, a cheer-for-the-hero story and a film full of 80’s interest points.
Viewers will quickly make note of a very young Christian Slater co-starring with actress Helen Slater (who is not related despite identical last names) an actress we would come to see take on the role of “Super girl” (just 1 year prior). Helen plays the lead role of Bill Jean Davy and does quite well in her Joan-of-Arc-esque style performance.
The premise here is played out in a very structured, but derivative storyline. Billy Jean and her brother Binx (Christian Slater) are simply minding their own business before being taunted by some of the local teen ass holes from town. A conflict ensues, Binx gets his motorbike ripped off and gets beaten up later that night as he tries to reclaim it back.
With bike back in possession, Binx is found bruised as his badly vandalized motor scooter sits outside their trailer. Billie Jean approaches Hubie Pyatt (Barry Tubb), the boy responsible at his workplace with an estimate of $608 in repair costs.
The father Mr. Pyatt (Richard Bradford), the business man of the family makes an attempt at giving Billie Jean the cash while also expecting a “pay as you service me in return” agreement. The situation gets out of hand resulting in Mr. Pyatt getting shot from his own pistol.
From this point forward it becomes a manhunt for the shooters who are out on the road homeless and now becoming overnight heroes due to the media attention they have received. Detective Ringwald who failed to show interest initially now has to deal with the roads not taken.
“The Legend of Billie Jean” feels formula-driven in its plotlines which was common in alot of 80s films (note: a similar “on the run” plot can be found in the movie “Wisdom”. Essentially we have a female protagonist who gets into trouble when she stands up for herself and her brother against the neighborhood bully. We have the “run and chase” premise that elevates our heroes despite their running from the law beginnings. We also have the true antagonist father who appears to be even more corrupt than his knuckle-head son.
These elements create a “root-for” atmosphere for our main characters with is sensationalized by the media, local reactions and coverage during the whole ordeal. Not unlike “Natural born Killers” we have a formula that works due to its final act which favors our outlaw heroes. During the who event, the audience is privy to the true story and events which occurred that support this flee and run foundation. Now top this all with a reoccurring Pat Benatar song playing in the background and one hot little main actress. This is why this film works and has stayed in some of our minds over the year. It’s got elements that seem iconic now which were at the time just status quo.
I found this film a blast to watch. It has a token “feel-good” sense to it and works its acts like a master-script that was designed to do well. Helen Slater looks stunning whether in long hillbilly braids or her second act modern warrior short-cut-do. Christian Slater also plays a great supporting role despite not being quite the “Jack Nicholson sounding clone” he later becomes. If your on the fence on this one, it’s worth the pickup. That Benatar song will be playing in your head long after.