Yesterday (May 23th) marked the 80th Anniversary in which the ending of this film took place, which feels rather surreal now. There is the slight possibility that if this film was never made, the names Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow would have remained within the history books, and only be known by teachers and students of the Great Depression Era of the United States. But because of this film (and that other 1 with no Clyde but had Bonnie Parker look like the leader of a gang in 1958), their infamy to the public and pop culture was revived, and today they’re 2 of the most recognisable outlaws of the 1930s along with John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd.
Since this film is very much a Hollywood production, liberties were taken in the telling of the story. It depended on the perspective that they were looking for; for the government and lawmen, these were cold-blooded thieves, murderers and kidnappers who escaped justice in the same fashion as John Dillinger – by travelling to other states in a time before the C.I.A. was formed to patrol the whole country. To the public, who were feeling the loss and pain of the time (as seen in the film as well), these were Robin Hood figures fighting “the man”, the man not being the police, but rather the banks who took their homes. We can glamourise certain periods and places in time, but life in America then wouldn’t have pleased anybody…unless they lived as fast as this.
Right, onto the movie: Bonnie and Clyde are played by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. Bonnie is the small-town girl from Texas, she works as a waitress, lives with her Mum, and has a safe, quiet life…that she is incredibly bored of. Clyde on the other hand, is a cocky, but also rather awkward young man, who looks at Bonnie’s Mother’s car to see if he wanted to keep it for himself. After Bonnie catches him snooping around the car, they decide to go out for lunch, where Clyde tells her straight out exactly what he is. A robber who has done time behind bars. Bonnie is skeptical of his story, until he pulls out a gun. He then walks into a small store, and comes out with a fistful of dollars. They quickly get into Bonnie’s car again, and drive off. Beginning a spree of robberies, murders, kidnappings and many free, new cars that would last 2-3 years. Along the way, they form a gang, which included Clyde’s brother Buck (played by a 37 year old Gene Hackman), Buck’s wife Blanche (played by Estelle Parsons), who was portrayed as a dim-witted, easily frightened preacher’s daughter who screamed manically, a lot. And lastly C.W. Moss (played by Michael J. Pollard) who is a combination of several sidekicks rolled into 1, a bit like how several prostitutes in Game Of Thrones were rolled together to create Ros, a character specifically made for the TV show.
Much like most plays and morality tales, the ending is already known, especially if you were already aware of the news stories of the time. The film was made 33 years after the events took place, and it would have still been fresh in people’s minds. The story itself is well made, allowing us to see different layers and perspectives of our characters. Much like a family, the Barrow Gang didn’t always see eye-to-eye. At times it’s evident that unless they were robbing banks and getting into trouble, life was normal, or in their case, life in-between jobs was really boring. Jokes were retold, silence at times was deafening, board games would amuse 80% of the party, and within that boredom was the stress of the police finding them.
Much like production, acting also evolves, and the acting of this film was really excellent. After seeing her in several other films, I feel like I’m becoming familiar with Faye Dunaway’s style. It could even be argued that she was ahead of her time, playing the roles of women who were moody and difficult, rather than weak and delicate in their character flaws. Warren Beatty was great as Clyde, and had that boyish charm, even at 30, to pull off the character well. The music was minimal, but also dynamic when it appeared (classic bango chase music), and the cinematography had some really memorable moments, while also playing it rather safe in its presentation. The ending is also 1 of the most dynamic, even today. Is it well worth a look? Oh yes. A fascinating film that also has some amusing moments in it, and as her 3rd film, it was the 1 that made Faye Dunaway a star.
Overall: **** stars (out of 5)