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Two girls run away from a mental institution and forge a relationship on the streets of New York. They soon begin enjoying their punk-rock life until the powers that be start nosing around, looking for them, unsettling their already delicate mental states. Will the Sleez Sisters be torn apart? Or will they tear themselves apart? Written by
The 1980 movie Times Square is both a cult movie, and about cults, and seems to be a self-conscious attempt to CREATE a cult about itself (which failed -- the real cult following was entirely different).
Although Tim Curry was given top billing, his is a supporting role. The real stars were two teenage unknowns -- Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson. The story follows these two opposites-who-attract as they escape together from a hospital where they're undergoing psychiatric and neurological tests. Alvarado's Pam is the daughter of a well-known politician; she is depressed and withdrawn and we clearly see that these tests are her father's way of throwing money at the problem rather than really be involved with his daughter. Her hospital roommate is Nicky -- Johnson's character -- who is clearly disturbed; she is also exciting, electric and incredibly bold, and Pam is intensely attracted to her.
Curry plays a DJ with a bit of a cult following, and here the movie is clearly playing on Curry's cult appeal to RHPS fans -- in 1980, Curry was still sexy as hell, was recording rock albums (remember I Do the Rock?) and RHPS fandom was in full swing. I certainly knew fans in those days who were happy to form a cult around any movie Curry was in -- they were even seeing Annie every week!
Curry's character reads warm platitudes and heartfelt letters from teenage girls between playing 80s punk and New Wave songs. He realizes that the runaway politician's daughter has written to him in the past and helps to create a teen cult following for the "Sleez Sisters," as the girls call themselves.
There's a lot going on here. The "Sleez" motif stands in opposition to a father who wants to clean up Times Square; of course he and his ilk have won by 2001. Although the movie -- through Curry's voice -- is very preachy about this, you also get to see for yourself the vitality and value of the filthy, un-cleaned-up streets.
In addition, there's the creation of a cult at work. The movie doesn't much examine what this means, and I had a sneaking suspicion that the real intention of the filmmakers was to create the very cult they depicted, which of course makes the whole thing irritating and heavy-handed. But it's there and available for the viewer to ask -- what happens when something real and vital becomes just another fashion statement? What does fandom do to its object of adoration?
There's also the story of the liberation of these two girls, which is over-done, and again seems designed to make other girls become adoring fans of the Sleez Sister message, but there's a core of real beauty to it.
The relationship between the girls is clearly romantic, and that's where it developed its real cult following -- from showings at lesbian festivals. Much of the lesbian content was never filmed, and most of the rest landed on the cutting room floor -- so much so that you know there are missing pieces as you watch; it's often obvious you're seeing the second part of something without a preceding scene to establish it. Nonetheless, there is passion, adoration, loyalty and tenderness between these girls, and it works.
The first time I saw this movie, I saw the surface stuff; "No Sense Makes Sense" and "they" think that bad girls are crazy. But Nicky clearly IS crazy, and the script and acting portray that with a clear eye.
Finally, Times Square has one of the best rock and roll soundtracks around; Suzi Quatro, The Pretenders, D.L. Byron and Patti Smith among others. The soundtrack itself has a cult following, and deservedly so.
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