This 1985 drama thriller is a gem, and one of my favorite guilty pleasures of all time. In spite of one of the cheesiest one liners in movie history: “Fair’s fair!” and having one of the coolest if goofiest theme songs of all time, somehow “Billie Jean” remains one of my favorite eighties gems. Back before I ever heard of cable television, I’d watch this four times a week on WPIX Television here in the Bronx and my what a classic we thought it was. And it still is, at least to me and a few other people out there. Billie Jean is just like every other girl her age, a wide eyed optimistic beauty whose only desire is to be left alone to have fun with her brother Binx during the summer.
But a simple prank involving a motor scooter and a horny bully soon turns in to a near murder when Billie is forced to defend her brother and is nearly raped one day. Out of anger Binx shoots local store businessman Pyatt, and out of the assumption that they’d go to jail, flee the authorities to avoid sentencing. What occurs is one of the classic eighties formulas: The Road Flick, and “The Legend of Billie Jean” is a great cheesy little road film where Helen Slater manages to convincingly portray Billie Jean as first a symbol of purity, soon becoming a feminist icon whose only desire is to get the money she’s owed for the destruction of Binx’s motor scooter.
Soon she becomes an hero in the eyes of thousands of young people all over America who view her pursuit for what’s due to her the ultimate middle finger in the eyes of the authorities who only want to see her and Binx safely apprehended and given reparations. Doing what he does best, Peter Coyote is the very sympathetic supporting player Ringwald, who only wants what’s best for Billie Jean and Binx in the end. Concurrently, Billie Jean becomes a saint of salvation, saving people from their abusive parents and violent authority figures, and inspiring a massive following of people willing to live where they can’t be harmed by the outside world. “The Legend of Billie Jean” definitely seems like an attempt at a series at times, but Robbins film has a straight faced camp about itself that makes it a blast from the past worth sitting through. And you have to enjoy the theme song. Long Live Pat Benatar.