In 1950s Mississippi, teenager Bobbie Lee Hartley navigates her blossoming hormones as she is courted by Billy Joe McAllister, who is headed for tragedy.In 1950s Mississippi, teenager Bobbie Lee Hartley navigates her blossoming hormones as she is courted by Billy Joe McAllister, who is headed for tragedy.In 1950s Mississippi, teenager Bobbie Lee Hartley navigates her blossoming hormones as she is courted by Billy Joe McAllister, who is headed for tragedy.
And talking of the 1960's, remember Jethro Bodine and his sixth-grade education? Well the actor who created Jethro (and is also the son of the heavyweight boxing champion), Max Baer Jr., produced and directed this quirky little offering.
It is Mississippi in 1953, and the pretty adolescent girl Bobby Lee is having fantasies about boys. Billy Joe McAlister begins to court her, but as their mutual affection blossoms, darker currents are swirling beneath the Tallahatchee Bridge ...
A careful, almost literal rendering of the song, the film is a commendable effort which gets stronger and more assured as it goes along. If it is somewhat heavy with Deep South cliche (plenty of "ah dew declayer" and "raaaht neighbourly"), it really couldn't have been otherwise. The song itself is overloaded with similar stuff. I personally did not like Bobby Lee's poem, which struck me as to syrupy and too slow.
Bobby Benson is adequate as the haunted Billy Joe, but the film's real success is the performance of Glynnis O'Connor as Bobby Lee. She handles the range of emotions with aplomb, and virtually demands that the viewer identify with her. The final scene on the bridge confirms that Bobby Lee has grown as a person and has emerged from the tragedy stronger than the adults around her.
Bobby Lee's huffy soliloquy on the country road is very good, with its subtle edge of self-deprecating humour, and the long courting-scene which follows it is nicely-judged. The rueful interregnum after Billy Joe's disappearance is beautifully done, dominated by the delightful Michel Legrand piano score. The rag doll floating in the water is a striking symbol, both of Billy Joe and of the abandonment of childhood.
Verdict - If a film version of the Bobbie Gentry song is going to be done, this is probably the best way to do it.
- Jan 20, 2000