A Harrowing Home Life
After putting her children in the car and told them to wait for her Francine Hughes (Farrah Fawcett) went back inside her home and poured gasoline around the bed of where her abusive husband Mickey (Paul Le Mat) lay before starting a fire. As their neighbours rush to the house including many of Mickey's family Francine drives to the police station where she confesses to the murder of her husband. Public defender Aryon Greydanus (Richard Masur) is assigned to represent Francine and after initially being frustrated by her reluctance to defend her actions she opens up and tells him of her marriage to Mickey, the abuse she suffered and his domineering family.
So the story which is told in "The Burning Bed" is an important one, any movie which aims to highlight domestic abuse be it a wife being bettered by a husband or the other way around should be praised for making the public aware. As such whilst the movie starts with the murder of Mickey it is really a story of how Francine became so desperate that she murdered him and it leads us from the first time they met at a dance through the years of abuse to beyond the murder and to the courtroom. Along the way we see how Mickey becomes erratic and violent, hitting Francine for the pettiest of reasons, controlling her, having blazing, violent rows and having to deal with his family which surrounds them whilst finding the system not always capable of helping her. And as such we see how for Francine she has no escape despite trying to a couple of times and even separating from Mickey.
What is very clear is "The Burning Bed" relies heavily on Farrah Fawcett and in more ways than one as whilst she delivers a strong performance as a battered wife driven to despair part of the movie's strength is on the usually glamorous Fawcett playing a non glamorous role. And Fawcett is very good in the role of an abused wife whilst Paul Le Mat grows the character of Mickey from being just a jerk to a real irrational monster of a man. When he starts banging on doors, trying to get in like a wild man it is genuinely terrifying.
What this all boils down to is that like many movies about abused wives "The Burning Bed" tells an important story and with the star power of Farrah Fawcett it has the ability of grabbing a bigger audience rather than similar movies with TV movie stars. But take Fawcett out of the equation and "The Burning Bed" is on par with many a TV movie about a wife driven to despair due to an abusive husband.