25 May 2008 | bob the moo
Dated and slightly trashy but still very cool and enjoyable for what it is
Architect Paul Linden has been travelling away in Europe for over three months and returns with new, much younger French wife Nicole in tow. Nicole's first challenge is Paul's sixteen year old daughter Jennifer, who is going through a typically teenage difficult period of being rebellious as she discovers her new sexuality and has places where her and her friends can hang out away from adults and squares. When Nicole starts trying to get to know her better, Jennifer reacts by digging for dirt on her stepmother.
This film got a rare screening on BBC4 recently so I watched it out of retro-curiosity. For my money Beat Girl turned out to be a surprising good film, partly because I was watching it on its own terms. What I mean by this is that I quickly accepted that this was not going to be a sharp examination of teenage alienation but rather a bit of an exploitative b-movie of rebellion, beatniks, stripping and jive music. In this area it works really well and is actually one of the better "troubled youth" b-movies that I've seen. Sadly this is not because it gets the adult characters right because where it matters, it doesn't. The parents are clunky authority figures and Nicole is little more than a plot device.
No, where Beat Girl works is in creating an enjoyable sense of grimy rebellion and sass that is what these films is supposed to be all about. The locations and music are a large part of this because it does give the film an authentic feel to be in seedy strip-clubs and laidback coffee houses, while the music is roundly cool and of the period. One of the main things that the film is worth seeing for is a wonderful turn from Gillian Hills in her debut film role. She is sexy with genuine fire behind her eyes and a great attitude I'm not really into bad girls but I fell in love right here! Only marginally sexier is dancer Pascaline who does a strip so hot that I had to check two things: the first being that this was made in 1960, the second being my watch, to confirm that, yes, BBC4 were screening it before the watershed! Anyway, back on Hills, she is great and drives the film with her harsh and convincing teenage girl. Alongside her Adam and Farrar are a bit clunky while her various peers seem quite clichéd and dated in a way that Hills' fire prevents. Lee has a real sleazy menace and there are appearances from Reed and Faith to increase the "oh look its" count. Overall Beat Girl is a dated and slightly trashy rebellious teen b-movie. In terms of message and plot it is not great but it is worth a look due to the cool points that the locations, direction, music and very hot Hills give it.