Starcrossed (1985) — The Lizard King falls for an alien

“You have courage and dignity, and I’ve been a coward.”

Justin’s rating: Mary phone home!

Justin’s review: Out of a dark alley, a woman in a red leather coat flees two ominous goons and bumps into a mechanic who offers to give her a lift to a bus station. He thinks she’s a Russian escapee, but the truth is that she’s actually an alien freedom fighter on the run from the oppressors who took over her planet.

Alien fugitive or no, Mary the alien (Belinda Bauer) is undeniably cute and Joey the mechanic (James Spader) is undeniably hard up for a date. Before you know it — literally before the opening neon credits and super sappy made-for-TV song are done — they’re sort of a traveling item.

The ’80s had a lot of these movies where someone falls in love with a non-human — whether mermaid, alien, android, or computer program come to life — and I was always a sucker for them back in the day. I think it’s the added layer of having somebody be extra protective and explaining modern society while getting all googly eyes that made it a personal fantasy. I figured that if I could never get a great girl, maybe there was a visitor from Pluto who might need my attentive guidance through the art of love.

Ha. Well, thank goodness I’m not that pathetic any more! Yes. Mhm. For sure.

This sort of premise doesn’t work when all of the power and know-how is wrapped up in one person. Both have to be strong in their own way. And Starcrossed manages that, which lessens the uncomfortable feeling that it’s just a guy taking advantage of a very lost girl. While Joey is a bold guy who knows his way around the city and isn’t afraid to stick his neck out for his friends, Mary’s harboring telepathic and telekinetic powers as befits her species.

I’m not the biggest Spader fan. Honestly, his roles tend to creep me out even when he’s supposed to be a good guy. But it’s fascinating to see him much younger as an extremely talkative romantic lead. He’s got the sort of energy that only the youthful have, and it fits in well with an ’80s romance flick.

But he has to make room for Mary, who’s the star here with her wide eyes, fascination with TV, and overall secretive nature. Every time she needs to convince people she’s an alien, she pulls off some weird mental trick, like making pool balls float or snow start falling. Mary also takes makeup and does All The Things with it on her face like she’s in kabuki theater.

In short, she’s adorable and talented, and you understand why Joey would upend heaven and earth to keep her safe. Cue a whole lot of running from the twin Terminators and eventual interspecies lip-locking before Mary has to make an E.T. and return back to her planet to, I dunno, lead the rebellion.

Oh, and I loved the explanation Joey comes up with why Mary looks like us: “You believe that God made us in his image. How many images do you think he has?” It’s an unusual approach to hand-wave away the aliens-appear-human trope, and it works as well as anything else.

Starcrossed isn’t as well-known from the period due to being a TV movie, but I’m here to say that’s premium ’80s cheese. The fashion, the fonts, the cars, and especially the soundtrack are a time capsule that was delightful to unpack. You could easily make fun of almost everything in this movie — or enjoy it as a buffet of guilty pleasures. I went with the latter.

Didja notice?

  • Why is she worried about running away from these guys? They just walk in slow motion.
  • SUPER PINK TITLE INCOMING!
  • Chili impresses women?
  • Cars playing chicken in a parking garage
  • The bad guys love blowing random stuff up
  • The reveal with the pool balls is highly effective
  • The pool balls flying about to a guitar solo is clap-worthy
  • Planetarium field trip!
  • Would you like me to teach you the art of kissing? OH MOVIE!
  • When you have uzis, you should just march menacingly toward people instead of using them
  • This movie has a strange fixation for staircases
  • The most amazing spaceship ever!

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