Friday, April 9, 2010

"Bonnie and Clyde" is well acted, sloppily written

"Bonnie and Clyde" stars Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman, and is directed my Arthur Penn, one of the most visionary directors of the 1960s. With Penn's excellent pedigree, I was expecting more of this 1967 Oscar winning film. However, for me, it fell short.

The film tells the true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, two people from different worlds who are brought together during the depression era of the late 1920s. As the film opens, Clyde is newly released from prison, a life that is all too familiar to him. I believe that his intentions are noble. He's only trying to make times easier for himself during hard economic times. It's the way that he goes about it that is questionable, to say the least. While passing through a small town in the mid-west, he attempts to steal a car. During his attempted heist, a small town waitress named Bonnie is watching him through her bedroom window. What ensues is Bonnie is swept off her feet by Clyde's charm (something that paralleled Beatty's own notorious personal, some would say womanizing life of the time) and the promise of excitement away from her droll, sleepy town and life. So begins a life of excitement and unpredictability. This eventually leads to small bank robberies. While their crimes may not be grandiose by any means, it adds the unpredictability that both crave. On the run, they use their ill-gotten gains for hotels, groceries, and gas for the various cars that they steal, seemingly in conjunction with every robbery. As the film progresses, the duo turns into a trio with the addition of a small town gas attendant named C.W., and finally into a quintent with the addition of Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife Blanche, the daughter of a preacher. When robbery turns into murder after a botched get away, and ensuing outings cause the death of Buck and blinding of Blanche, the law is hot on Bonnie and Clyde's trail. This adaptation of the true story of Bonnie and Clyde may be one of the more personal, brutally honest, not to mention violent adaptations of their story ever made.

As I was watching this film, I couldn't help but make comparisons to one of my new favorite films, James Cagney's 1949 "White Heat". In this film, the women (Virginia Mayo and Margaret Wycherley as Cagney's wife and mother, respectively) were strong willed, and I got the feeling that they could take care of themselves, and hold their own against their male counterparts. While Bonnie did her share of brutal slayings, she had her moments of absolute helplessness. Blanche was probably my least favorite characters in the film. Bonnie characterized her as a shrill angry shrew of a woman, something that I would certainly agree with. I couldn't help feeling that with every scene, I got stuck in a loop of deja-vu. Each scene began with a robbery, a moment of euphoria, then there would be the inevitable depression, and finally, nearly getting caught by the law close on their heels.

I went into this film with high expectations, only to finish disappointed. While the acting in the film was excellent (ironically the only Oscar win for an actor in the film went to Estelle Parsons, who played Blanche), the writing could have been more substantial. Instead, each scene was seemingly duplicated from its predecessor, only having slight details changed. This was a good film, not great.

1 comment:

  1. The new biography just out about Warren Beatty "Star" covers the background on this movie in great detail and is a very interesting read. It was the movie that made WB a star.