Teenage runaway Nicky Marada (Robin Johnson) is arrested after causing a scene outside a nightclub; she’s interned in a psychiatric hospital where she’s placed in a room with Pamela (Trini Alvarado), daughter of Commissioner David Pearl (Peter Coffield) wants to clean up Times Square.
The girls are very different, Nicky is loud, obnoxious and rebellious; Pamela is shy, quiet and insular. When Nicky is discharged she takes Pamela with her, they steal an ambulance and escape to a new life in New York City.
The girls try their luck cleaning car windscreens, hustling cards, attempted muggings, as exotic dancers and eventually make a name as the ‘Sleez Sisters’ through their performances of Nicky’s songs and her insistence on smashing TV sets as a form of protest and self-promotion.
John LaGuardia (Tim Curry) is a DJ in New York; he speaks to them through his radio show, championing their cause, updating their growing fan base with stories of their struggles and alleged punk ethos. As their fame grows they organise a concert in Time Square, however the trio’s delicate relationship starts to fracture.
Times Square was allegedly inspired by a young girls diary found in a sofa by director Allan Moyle who co-wrote the script with Jacob Brackman. The movie starts well and although focused on the serious issue of mental illness, is incredibly good gritty fun. Nicky and Pamela manage to live and work in late 70’s Times Square and avoid the stereotypical pitfalls associated with the area and era: drugs, alcoholism and prostitution are all either side stepped or glossed over. This isn’t such an issue as the movie looks great and is nice snapshot of the era; however any pretension at honest portrayal has to be taken tongue-in-cheek.
The movie bombed on initial release; this has resulted in a blame-game between writer-director Allan Moyle (Pump up the Volume, Empire Records) and producer Robert Stigwood (Saturday Night Fever, Grease). The alleged issues arose over the latter’s insistence on more songs throughout the soundtrack. There must be more too it as the final movie is disjointed and unfocussed. It has since generated a cult following on VHS, DVD and at Lesbian Film Festivals.
Although the movie was a box-office flop, the excellent soundtrack was a huge hit, and it’s not surprising when you look at the track listing: Ramones: I Wanna Be Sedated; The Ruts: Babylon is Burning; The Pretenders; Suzi Quatro: Rock Hard; Innocent not guilty by Garland Jeffreys; Talking Heads; Lou Reed: Walk on the Wild Side; Tubeway Army: Down in the Park: Patti Smith; XTC: Take this Town; Roxy Music and original songs by Robin Johnson, Damn Dog Now (covered by Manic Street Preachers) and as a duets with Trini Alvarado on Your Daughter is One and David Johansen of the New York Dollson Flowers of the City.
It could have been, and probably should have been, a classic story of teenage alienation and rebellion. It has the look, the setting and the soundtrack; however it also has none of the grubby fun of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School; the quality of Suburbia or Repo Man; or the real grit of Christiane F.
Quality: 3 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars