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Sunday, December 15, 2013

BONNIE AND CLYDE Lacks Pizzazz and Depth

Article first published as BONNIE AND CLYDE Lacks Pizzazz and Depth on TheTVKing.

Bonnie and Clyde, a four hour miniseries that aired on History and other networks this week, is a typical docudrama. It roughly tells the story of the titular outlaws, with a focus on Clyde a little before they met, through their tirade together, and ending in their deaths. Most people have heard of this terrible duo, and even if many are fuzzy on the details, the outcome is known ahead of time.

I wouldn't say I learned much from viewing Bonnie and Clyde. Normally, a docudrama will open my eyes to certain details and aspects, making it informative, as well as entertaining. This one does not. It skims over interesting people, like a female reporter named P.J. Lane (Elizabeth Reaser, The Good Wife) trying to make it in a man's industry, or a legendary hunter named Frank Hamer (William Hurt, Damages) brought in to catch the pair, without giving us anything memorable about them.

In fact, the entire production is light on depth. We are told that Clyde (Emile Hirsch, Milk) is a psychic, and it's hinted that he sees their end coming, but his feelings about this aren't explored, and we don't see any toll this might take on him. We can surmise that Bonnie (Holliday Grainger, The Borgias) is desperate for fame and wants her name remembered more than anything, including being with Clyde, but what does that do to their relationship?

Bonnie and Clyde is not without some character development for its leads. Viewers are able to figure out their dynamic, and the couple go through a rough patch or two. Yet, we are not taken into their heads. Plot points are brought up several times to make a point, but there is not the substance to them to really bite into.

I am unsure whether to blame the acting or not. One could argue that more subtle performances from Hirsch and Grainger, communicating the unwritten emotions in their expressions and movements, could have changed my impression of the piece. Yet, it's not like they are given a lot of time to do this. The pacing is quite quick, and while I wouldn't say there's a ton of action, it does seem like Bonnie and Clyde jumps from one little outing to the next with barely a pause to catch its breath and engage in character development.

Late in the show, a little of this missing element begins to come out. Clyde hates that Bonnie killed a father unnecessarily on Christmas, and the deed haunts them beyond the action. And her selfishness gets Clyde's brother, Buck (Lane Garrison, Prison Break), killed, which Clyde is angry about. But by then it's too little, too late, with the credits upon us and the relationship has to be solid again, so those things are swept past.

Perhaps this commentary reflects the life of the criminals as much as this particular telling of it. Maybe they whizzed by too fast to consider their actions or feel bad about them. But that's where creative license comes in. Bonnie and Clyde is not a compelling story the way it's presented here, and if changes need to be made to make it so, by all means, enact those changes.

I do enjoy Reaser and Hurt. It's clear that both are fantastic actors, even if their characters are under served. Hamer is basically interchangeable, any law enforcement officer would have caught the pair eventually, and Lane is more a stereotype than a developed individual, but the performers bring something on screen, as they always do, that draws one in. Holly Hunter (Saving Grace) also makes a mark as Bonnie's mom

However, other supporting players fare worse. Clyde's mother, Cummie (Dale Dickey, True Blood), gets a single, too brief, meaty scene. Father Henry (David Jensen, The Curious Case on Benjamin Button) has even less. Henry Methvin (Garrett Kruithof, Magic City) is pivotal to the ending, but not stand-out as a role. Most disappointing, audience don't get much chance to see if Sarah Hyland, who plays Buck's wife, Blanche, can do much more than she does on Modern Family.

Also, beginning Bonnie and Clyde at the end and flashing back is a mistake. I know it's a genre staple at this point, meant to hook in the watcher, but it's a tired trope that needs to be put down, and starts the show off on the wrong foot.

In the end, I feel like a really good miniseries about Bonnie and Clyde could be made, going by little bits that shine through, such as when Bonnie takes posed pictures and sends them to P.J., but this isn't it, not going far enough with what works, and overall being forgettable and mediocre.

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