film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Legend of Billie Jean 1985 * * * Stars


The Legend of Billie Jean is a product of the "Greed decade", probably because it was made in 1985. It's in the techno soundtrack, the summer outfits, the mullet hairstyles, and that theme song by Pat Benatar that sticks in your craw. At 96 minutes, "Billie Jean" also combines the hero drama with a whiff of some depraved, Jerry Springer episode. "You like anything that's on the TV". Uh-huh.

Directed by Matthew Robbins, a dude that hasn't made anything since some music video over three decades ago, The Legend of Billie Jean is a movie cut from original cloth, void of any intentioned marketing by TriStar Pictures and nodding mildly to the story of Joan of Arc (1957's Saint Joan to be exact). 

Heck, I remember it like it was yesterday, seeing an advertisement for "Billie Jean" playing in some small, rundown theatre near my hometown in Michigan. Didn't care, didn't go and it was only when the flick showed up on cable that I began to watch it profusely. The Legend of Billie Jean, well it feels like a cult film even if it was never deemed a cult film (according to wiki). Initial box-office bomb (check). Never really accepted by the mainstream (check). B movie residue (check). Marginality (checkdown). What's left but um, audience participation. Uh, it's not that kind of a party up in here.

So yeah, the plot of "Billie Jean" is about a scooter. You heard me, a scooter. Some rich jerks steal it from a brother and sister via the trailer park neighborhood. When said sister (Helen Slater as Billie Jean) tries to collect money to have it repaired after it has been trashed, conflict and chaos ensue in the form of a shooting and/or fast getaway. 

Bottom line: The Legend of Billie Jean is entertaining, a movie of its time (remember when everybody dressed up like Madonna so the real one could have been an impersonator?), and the feature debut for one Christian Slater (no relation to Helen by the way). The vehicle predates social media, predates fifteen minutes of fame, and postdates the impoverished ways of sibling Bonnie and Clyde. "Legen... wait for it...dary."

Written by Jesse Burleson

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