If “The Legend of Billie Jean” were to be released today, we would call it impeccably woke. That’s part of what makes it so exciting to watch through modern eyes: Its story of toxic masculinity and how it impacts vulnerable women is still as relevant today as it was 35 years ago, if not more so given the current socio-political conversations about America’s relationship with gender norms. It’s remarkable that writers Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner are able to incorporate a few extended (but casually presented) conversations about the intersection between sexuality and power imbalance, and all the more interesting that director Matthew Robbins is able to present those perspectives without ever silencing the feminine voices speaking to the audience throughout the narrative: This is a movie about women taking power back from men who stole it from them, and moving forward by manifesting that power on their own terms. Helen Slater and Christian Slater make a great sister-and-brother pair and share warm, believable chemistry that goes a long way towards selling the dynamics among the characters as well as their “Bonnie and Clyde”-lite journey, and they’re surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast (including a sly Peter Coyote and an unexpectedly charming Keith Gordon), not to mention a first-rate selection of ’80s radio songs that contribute to the movie’s snappy pace (in particular Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”).
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)