A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this was one of the first movies to get the newly minted R-rating. There are lots of shootouts and a violent finale in a hailstorm of bullets that was compared by commentators to the Vietnam War (yes it was) for graphic bloodshed -- though far gorier movies have since arrived to "entertain." There is a glorification of the anti-social outlaw lifestyle (but an awareness of how criminals manufacture such myths themselves, for the positive PR), and the main characters smoke and drink. Bonnie is sexually frustrated (discretely topless in her opening scene) with Clyde, who seems to have intimacy-impotence problems (in the original script he was gay, or at least bisexual). Their bedroom dysfunction is a recurring theme, though it's coached in tasteful euphemism.
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What's the story?
The straight-ahead narrative isn't a very accurate portrayal of the true criminal rampages of Depression-era robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, but, then again, the way outlaws manufacture their own romantic myths is part of the theme. The story starts on the day a bored (and topless) young Texas waitress Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) first spies Clyde (Warren Beatty) trying to steal her mom's car. She craves excitement, and he's a charming petty crook and promises an escape. Clyde decides to do bank jobs when he (correctly) realizes that due to the Depression many folks are facing foreclosure and will view bank bandits as heroes. Bonnie -- besides learning to shoot and take an active hand in the crimes -- publishes poetry and photos in the newspapers about their exploits (this bizarre detail is quite true). They form a small criminal gang with Clyde's brother (Gene Hackman) and a few others, but eventually authorities catch up with them.
Is it any good?
When BONNIE AND CLYDE first premiered, many condemned it as vile, gory, and positively toxic. One reviewer wrote a scathing negative review -- then reconsidered, then ran another review retracting his original opinion and giving the movie big thumbs-up. Clearly this was a film like Natural Born Killers, that divided opinion leaders in its era, but it wound up being a hit with audiences and film historians. Today families can watch it uncut in their own living room -- something that might have horrified folks in 1967. Some violence is still shocking (especially the gruesome ending), but much bloodier movies have come out of Hollywood since.
Old-school Hollywood censorship used to dictate that lawbreakers were always punished in the end. While that certainly holds true here, Bonnie and Clyde subverted the studio code by making the killer couple especially appealing and likeable protagonists, more so than the police who pursue them. The movie doesn't go out of its way to condemn the bank robbers and their deeds, which seems in some ways a natural reaction to the grim economic conditions of dust-bowl America (though at one point Clyde discovers a bank he wants to rob has gone broke too). This "anti-establishment" notion struck a chord with the 1960s Vietnam War-era audiences, who had their own reasons for learning to mistrust the government, military, and police.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the historical facts of Bonnie and Clyde compared with this movie, and the hero-worship legends built about their gang (and other outlaws, in fact, such as John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd, whose bios were partially filched for this script). Do you think this movie glorifies robbery? Could it have ended peacefully? Do you think this film comments negatively on hero-worship of criminals, or was it part of the problem? What about the constantly under-indictment rappers of today, and their idolization of the likes of Al Capone and Scarface?
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