Infamous Review: Fails to take Bonnie and Clyde into the world of social media
Attempting to take the star-crossed criminal love story of Bonnie and Clyde into the world of social media, Infamous falters in delivering a fresh look at the dangers and impact of social influences and the pursuit of fame at any cost.
The film follows Arielle (Bella Thorne) and Dean (Jake Manley), a pair of lovers that find themselves on the run from cops after they decide to leave their drab lives in Florida behind and pursue a life of armed robberies that’ll lead them to a new life in Hollywood. However, while Arielle’s obsession with putting their criminal escapades on social media lands they plenty of followers and viewing eyes, it also constantly lands them in hot water and forces them to fight for their lives as climb higher and higher on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. So, with plenty of followers to please and cops to escape, the two become involved in more violent means that slowly make them question what the end will be in all of this.
Infamous actually isn’t the only modern Bonnie and Clyde story we gotten recently as they’re have been plenty of other iterations and perspectives of the iconic criminal duo, like The Highwaymen, and even one that touches on police brutality in Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim. However, while taking its characters into the thriving world of social media, Infamous forgets what makes the story of Bonnie and Clyde so interesting to watch and even what makes them kind of relatable. Arielle and Dean are absolutely despicable and aren’t given really any likable qualities that make you invested or even interested in their story. They, or really just Arielle, are solely driven by becoming famous on social media and represent the worst kinds of social influencers out there. Perhaps that’s the point, but there’s nothing relatable or respectable about what they do that viewers can connect to and it quickly becomes tiresome and annoying after a while. They’re basically these “we’re cool cause we kill and have sex” personalities that are totally tone deaf and are archetypes that these performances don’t thrive in.
Personally, their whole “tough” and “bad-ass” personas that come out when they’re robbing people comes off totally phony and it’s annoying how tough this film tries to act when its lead protagonists are such posers. I don’t know if it’s the direction from Joshua Caldwell or just Thorne’s performance, but she never comes off as the believable bad girl that Arielle tries to be and it’s so unnecessarily over the top. She’s also just super whiny, annoying, and lacks any sort of charm to make her even remotely enjoyable. However, at least Thorne can create some memorability with Arielle because Manley doesn’t do much to make Dean even remotely worth being there. Now, he probably wasn’t given much to work with since Dean is sort of like the moral compass of the two, but his attempts to reel Arielle in are so uninteresting. There’s a point where Arielle calls him a pussy and I couldn’t help but agree because he constantly says how FUBAR their situation has become and how they won’t make it out but is constantly trying to. It’s almost easy to forget that he’s even there sometimes and his only role in all of this is to give Arielle a partner to fight with, have sex with, and be crazy with.
Even the social media escapades in this are totally wasted and have nothing to add to the ongoing conversations about the influences of social influencers. Outside of one really lame interaction between the two and a lonely fan (Amber Riley), we never get to see who these fans really are, they’re thoughts, why they like them so much, or even any sort of interaction online. All we see are stylized updates to how many followers they’ve attained and the comments of support and hate they’re receiving – which at first look nice, but eventually become bland. Honestly, the film lacks any sort of fun filmmaking, style, and personality to make it unique and it takes itself way too seriously. Adding in more personalities and delving into the mind of the followers could’ve at least given us a break from Arielle and Dean as well as touched on an idea usually found within the story of Bonnie and Clyde that generally gives them some of redemption or motivation.
Generally, there’s some sort of focus on how other people grow fond of them for being a symbol of rebellion against a system that constantly puts them down. While this is briefly touched on in an interaction with the one fan this film shows, Infamous misses out on a golden opportunity to delve into toxic fandoms and the role that followers play on the influencers. In some ways, we can see how Arielle is influenced by her followers’ comments, but it never goes any deeper than that. If this was social media from like ten years ago it would be more fitting, but interactions between influencers and fans is so much deeper now. From fans influencing what influencers do in videos to them even donating funds to keep them afloat, there’s a whole other side of the world of social media that’s totally lost here. Infamous barely hits the baseline for the impact of social media and the film’s lack of utilizing fan impact to create some possible empathetic qualities for Arielle and Dean that could’ve built out their fame and influence.
Infamous totally falters in delivering a modern-day, social media driven Bonnie and Clyde story that’s remotely interesting or likable. Anyone looking for a modern “on the run” story should absolutely see Queen & Slim as it features the kind of empathetic characters, motivations that are heightened by the impact of their actions on the world around them, and themes of legacy and influence that Infamous is completely devoid of.