Rated R for a lot of 1967 bright red blood. This blood isn't just in some places. Oh no. This isn't a paper cut. A dude gets shot point blank in the face. Things don't end up so great for actual historical figures Bonnie and Clyde, meaning that this isn't a spoiler. This is an education. The movie oddly dips and ducks around other social taboos. There's the most obtuse talk about sex that I've seen in a film. There's not much swearing. It's just that a lot of people get shot in gross ways. Rated R.
DIRECTOR: Arthur Penn
People be loving this movie. Like, people revere this movie. I don't know anyone personally. But in film circles, this movie has respect. I mean, it's not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. But to enter the cinematic canon like it has, that is mind-boggling. I'm probably going to get ripped apart for my meh-ness when it comes to movie. I can almost even guess who probably loves this movie. But I think I know why I don't like this movie and I'd like to verbalize it clearly. Then I'm going to duck and dodge around that statement to stretch this review out into a long, muddled mess. Do you know why this movie doesn't really work?
He's not great. I don't think I've ever really liked Warren Beatty. He's not a horrible actor. He can get by sometimes, but he's rarely impressive. Bonnie and Clyde might be the worst of it. I should check. I had weirdly unreliable memories about writing a review about Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'm pretty sure that it didn't happen. But Bonnie and Clyde and Bram Stoker's Dracula share one huge flaw that really stresses and highlights the flaws of the movie: it puts a really mediocre actor across from a great actor. In Dracula, it was Anthony Hopkins across from Keanu Reeves. Watch that performance. Hopkins is chewing the scenery like I've never seen and Keanu is being the most Keanu he's ever been. The same is true with Warren Beatty and Gene Hackman. Gene Hackman is the character he's playing. Then there's Warren Beatty, who admittedly is trying harder than Keanu was. (I'm sorry, Mr. Reeves. I actually like your oeuvre quite a bit, but that performance was cringe-worthy.) Beatty is not a subtle actor. He's almost telegraphing like one would on a stage. Every choice is larger than it should be. The movie has room for nuance. I'm not saying that there's a ton of that in here. I feel like Faye Dunaway is also going a little bit big, but that almost is a response to Beatty's performance. But there's something believable about Dunaway and Hackman that Beatty just doesn't have. Again, I'm placing a lot of that on Beatty's shoulders. It seems pretty consistent with many of his performances. He seems to get by on chiseled looks as opposed to anything else in many of his movies. But as big as the other actors are getting, they at least really seem to believe their characters. Beatty, on the other hand, isn't strong enough to do that. Also, his character doesn't have much of an emotional arc. Dunaway's Bonnie has a ton to work with.
Look at it this way. Clyde is kind of a scoundrel from moment one. He's a lovable scoundrel, despite that he shoots people in the face. But he's a scoundrel nonetheless. He meets Bonnie by jacking a relative's car. (Well, attempting to steal the car. Until he sees a naked lady tastefully covered up by sections of a window.) His growth is pretty superficial. His entire character arc goes from being a guy who never thought he'd fall in love with one person to loving her. Yeah, it's a love story in a weird way. But that's not the big transition. Bonnie is the one who has this deep character that needs to be explored. Faye Dunaway is the character who goes through stuff. Heck, if it wasn't for the recognizable duo, I would have preferred this movie just to be called "Bonnie". That's the movie right there. That's how you win me over. Something as simple as that. Change the title and give her a little bit more business and this is a movie that I can get behind. Bonnie Parker is already kind of an enigma to me. A lot of this movie is about people glorifying crime. The country is just falling apart, so people don't love the government. I know that there's a history of glorifying the outlaw of the Old West and that Bonnie and Clyde are coming off of that run in entertainment. But people all over love the idea of meeting the Barrow Gang and that's fascinating to me. But I digress. What I'm really fascinated with is how quickly Bonnie just abandons her old humdrum life for a life full of crime and murder. Like, she falls for Clyde really fast. LIKE REALLY FAST. Unrealistically fast. It's one sociopath running into another sociopath and recognizing that they are kindred spirits. But she's not a sociopath, I guess. She still loves their life, but this gets into a weird study of what depression is really like. Only, you know, they kill people and rob banks. There are moments where she just shifts. She loses her focus. She is upset by things that no one else finds weird. 90% of the time, she's indulgent with her crimes and loves being this celebrity. Other times, she wishes that Clyde was just a regular dude. Bonnie wouldn't have ever loved him if he was a regular dude. He is who he is and that's what made her instantly fall for him. Oddly enough, this might be a commentary on relationships to begin with. The idea of love at first sight is kind of questioned. I don't think that there's any doubt that she loves Clyde throughout the entire film. But there are moments where she regrets ever being in a place where she could love Clyde. Her sadness at their lifestyle is palpable. It's odd, because her fantasy is of the boring. There's a great conversation between the two regarding if they could do it all over again and Clyde implies that he would do things differently, but his changes are so insignificant that it shows that he hasn't changed whatsoever over the course of the story. Faye Dunaway actually does a marvelous job of balancing what should be shown and what shouldn't be shown. I approve wholeheartedly.
Estelle Parson's Blanche is too much. I don't know the real history of Bonnie and Clyde. I don't really idolize criminals that much. (But I still love Breaking Bad and The Shield for some reason.) This character kept showing up in films of the '60s and '70s and I can just live without it. There's nothing that really makes me bond with the character and that's a bummer. Blanche is supposed to be annoying. I get that. When the protagonists of the story are evil, there has to be a sense of bonding and usually that is done over having a mutual annoyance. It's why Skylar may have come across as so caustic. Everyone in the scenario was bothered by Skylar (except for the logical side of my brain). But even more so, everyone is annoyed by Blanche. Blanche is about five notches too far though. Her screeching gets to be a bit old. One scene does enough to get under my skin. But it became the "Eat my shorts, man" of the movie. Every time there was an action scene, Blanche would scream at the top of her lungs and all I can say is, "No thank you." C.W. Moss, in contrast, is great though. I have a soft spot for Michael J. Pollard, I think, ever since Scrooged. He's always a version of that character. He's just such a great character actor and his addition to the group is such a great juxtaposition. He's this child who is over his head and loving every minute of it. There's this great element to the movie that lets us all scream at the screen every time he begs for equal fame to the rest of the Barrow boys. His character is also pretty well developed. I love the arc that he goes through. It's baby steps, but that's what he character needs.
SPOILER: The end is pretty great. There's this wonderful real world foreshadowing that happens and the movie doesn't linger on it. The ending is teased appropriately throughout and once it happens, it's just over. I love that there's no attempt to drag out the finale. It just happens and the editing on it is great. The movie love the L-cut matched with the smash cut and it works so well throughout the movie. The end kind of keeps the tone and style going throughout and it's pretty satisfying. Again, I'm going to throw Warren Beatty into the deep end. It's not even his fault. It's the direction. But the rolling around after being shot that many times just comes across as silly. It's Pyramus and Thisbe in Midsummer ridiculous. (THE MOST LITERARY REFERENCE I'VE MADE YET!) I know. Bonnie and Clyde are meant to die in each other's arms. But c'mon. He's got all kinds of bullets in him. He ain't rollin' around nowhere. Regardless, I do like the end, but I still don't know why folks love this movie that much. It's really good, but I don't get the love element. Anyway, it's better than I remember it being and there are elements that are going to help my paper. Just not too many elements that are going to help my paper.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.