It is becoming more and more commonplace for quality stuff, whether it be a mini- series, series or television movies, to be shown on television. Television movies used to be synonymous with below par material. That is no longer the case. Script, quality of director and actors/actresses and money involved are all on a par with films that appear on big screens. Such is the case with this latest version of Bonnie & Clyde. It features a well-known director (Bruce Beresford – Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies) along with a couple of recognizable lead actors and a budget that allowed for authentic sets and costumes, quality cinematography and real looking special effects.
When Clyde Barrow (Gabriel Suttle – Tooth Fairy 2) was a young boy he caught a virus that almost killed him. Coming out of it his great grandmother said he got “second sight” as a result meaning he had visions of what was going to happen in the future. This ability served him well in his future undertaking.
As young men, Clyde (Emile Hirsch – Into the Wild, Milk) and his older brother Buck (Lane Garrison – from television’s Prison Break) worked as labourers in the field. It seemed like they were bound to work hard to be poor all their lives. One day when they went uninvited to a wedding that was happening in town and Clyde laid eyes on Bonnie Parker (Holliday Grainger – Jane Eyre – 2011, Anna Karenina – 2012) their futures changed.
Bonnie’s marriage did not last long as her husband ran off on her. Once Clyde knew this he went after the young lady he fell in love with at first glance. Up to this point he and his brother had become small time thieves and had gone to jail for their troubles. Now with Bonnie and her unfulfilled dreams of stardom due to rejection by Hollywood movie studios Clyde had the push to become a bigger thief.
Over the next couple of years Bonnie and Clyde, as they became known, pulled off increasingly dangerous and violent heists. Everywhere they went in their native Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Florida and other southern states a trail of blood and headlines followed them. The thieving duo became famous due to the articles written about them by female journalist P.J. Lane (Elizabeth Reaser – Young Adult, Twilight). They were folk heroes and provided some distraction from the crushing poverty of the Depression for the American public.
Because of Clyde’s sixth sense they were able to elude capture by the authorities. But you knew and you figure they had to know that Bonnie and Clyde were not going to live to see old age.
In an indication of how highly thought of this two-part television movie was is indicated in the fact that is was shown on three different television stations – The History Channel, A&E and Lifetime. When three networks are going to simultaneously broadcast a two part film over the course of two consecutive nights then you know how high the expectations are for it. For the most part Bonnie & Clyde lives up to it.
While this is not up to par with the 10 Academy Awards nominations, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway version directed by Arthur Penn in 1967, it is still worthy of a watch as it brings a different kind of Bonnie and Clyde to the screen. Both Hirsch and Grainger are appealing in their turns as the title characters. Hirsch is a serious and intense Clyde while Grainger has all the chutzpah required of Bonnie. Though she is the lesser known of the two lead actors it is Holliday Grainger who made more of an impression on my though it might be due to the fact that she had the showier part.
The two leads are aided and abetted by some quality veteran actors also in the cast. Holly Hunter (The Incredibles, The Piano), playing Bonnie’s mother, and William Hurt (Children of a Lesser God, A History of Violence) as the lawman who hunted the two legendary crooks down, are strong in their limited onscreen time. Two younger actors, Lane Garrison and Sarah Hyland (from television’s Modern Family), as Buck’s wife, also comport themselves well.
What I found interesting were the differences in the story and depictions of the two lead characters. Interesting that some of the history of the two real life thieves was tinkered with as it was shown on The History Channel.
Bottom line is that this was entertaining without being award worthy. Nothing stupendous while being steady. Meaning that it is a fun watch once, but you won’t find yourself able to do multiple viewings. The inherent nature of the story makes is watchable while the elevated production values make it nice to look at.
-Iconography: The Story of Bonnie & Clyde