Synopsis by Mark Deming
Bobbie Gentry's hauntingly enigmatic 1967 hit single served as the inspiration of this story of unrequited teenage love. In 1953, Bobbie Lee Hartley (Glynnis O'Connor) is 15 years old and in love with 18-year-old Billy Joe McAllister (Robbie Benson). Unfortunately, Bobbie's father (Sandy McPeak) and mother (Joan Hotchkis) forbid her to date until she's 16, and until then, Billy Joe and Bobbie Lee are supposed to be content with occasional meetings after church on Sunday. The teenage lovers sometimes steal away for meetings on the Tallahatchie Bridge, but while the other local boys are able to slake their frustrations with the prostitutes imported for the occasional town dances, a booze-addled Billy Joe succumbs to another sort of temptation, and his guilt first destroys his relationship with Bobbie Lee, and then leads to his self-destruction. Ode to Billy Joe was produced and directed by Max Baer,Jr., best remembered as Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies.
alcoholism, coming-of-age, community, confusion, dance [art], homosexual, romance, sexual-awakening, Southerner, suicide, suicide-attempt, Summer, teenagers, tragic-love