For those who have never heard of Bonnie and Clyde – you don’t know what you’re missing. Holliday Grainger and Emile Hirsch star as the titular duo in a miniseries that follows Clyde Barrow from little boy through meeting Bonnie Parker to the beginning and end of their notorious crime spree (Bonnie and Clyde).
It’s the story everybody knows. Clyde is a petty criminal who meets Bonnie at her wedding and soon teams up with Bonnie, romantically and criminally, to carry out a series of bank jobs and robberies. Bonnie is shown to be the driving force behind much of the criminal activity. As the tagline proudly boasts, ‘He held the gun … but she called the shots.’ She yearns to be a star, even giving posed photographs to the press to accompany stories of their misdemeanours.
The supporting cast includes Holly Hunter as Emma Parker, Bonnie’s mother, and William Hurt as a sheriff drawn back from retirement to catch the pair.
The character of Bonnie Parker steals the show (and lots of money) thanks to Grainger’s fantastic performance. She brilliantly shows Parker with her flirtatious Southern drawl, and appetite for fame.
Hirsch doesn’t steal the scenes quite so much, but he gives a solid performance. He’s not as charismatic as Warren Beatty, but is probably slightly closer to the real-life figure. This version focuses on the love story between the pair, and tries harder to be historically accurate than the iconic 1967 Arthur Penn film.
One of the less successful elements are Clyde’s premonitions. Called ‘the sight’, these provide compelling images, but perhaps take some of the momentum – and credibility – out of the show.
Momentum is a major issue. With a 167-minute runtime, you would expect it to go into far more depth of character than the 1967 film did, but if anything the characters that emerge here are blander. Throughout the film there are sporadic slow motion sequences, such as dancing or gunfire, accompanied by music. This effect really doesn’t add much to proceedings, though the mix of music from the time and a more traditional score is fairly effective overall.
Though enjoyable enough watch, this does feel a little bland, and spells things out to the audience in a way that feels a little patronizing at times. There are times when something happens and we see Barrow’s premonition again, just to remind us he had it.
There are also times where the dialogue feels a little convenient or unrealistic, such as Bonnie cutting out their names from a newspaper and liking the ring ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ has to it over ‘Clyde and Bonnie’. Maybe this did happen in real life, but there has to be a more interesting way to portray it. All-in-all, it’s a fairly formulaic affair.
Bonnie and Clyde is very well put together, full of beautiful shots, stylish costumes and decent action. Though it certainly doesn’t break any new ground, the performances are good, especially Holliday Grainger who completely steals the show as Bonnie.
The premonitions take away from it being a more realistic version of events than the 1967 film, which means it’s completely caught in the middle: if you want a fun, fictionalised account of the events, watch the 1967 film. If you want the real events, watch a documentary. Bonnie & Clyde is out now on DVD and Blu-ray. You can pick yours up here.