Infamous

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Infamous Movie Poster Image
Violent, mature crime tale offers social commentary.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Film is a commentary on drive among young people to be famous amidst reward psychology of "likes" and "follows" on social media. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters are criminals. A kind hostage is a woman of color; she's complicit in helping them.

Violence

Very high level of gun violence, including shoot-outs, firing guns point-blank, and killing innocent bystanders. Domestic violence. Two characters get into a fistfight. Death threat. 

Sex

Several passionate sex scenes, including one reckless act behind the wheel of a moving car (no consequences). Arielle's clothes get more revealing as she gets deeper into crime. 

Language

Nonstop extreme language, including "bitch," "c--t," "d--k," "goddamn," "s--t," "slut," "t-ts," and frequent use of "f--k."

Consumerism

Arielle and Dean's quest for money starts in a place of need but is glamorized.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lead characters smoke pot and cigarettes constantly. Supporting character snorts cocaine. Teen partying, including swigging liquor out of a bottle.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Infamous is a violent, profane, modern-day Bonnie and Clyde-style crime romance with former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne. Gun violence is frequent and intense, most of it coming from Thorne's character, Arielle, who kills with no real remorse. It's a commentary on social media culture, both on the belief that "likes" and "follows" are a form of validation and on mindless, reckless content. Arielle is shown as being in over her head as she and her boyfriend, Dean (Jake Manley), gain celebrity by posting videos of their crime spree, but the movie also portrays guns as sexy -- to the point that Arielle is shown cleaning her gun in a red lacy bra. After their first armed robbery, the couple has sex while Dean is driving the getaway car; it's one of several sex scenes, though there's no graphic nudity. Expect constant cigarette and pot smoking, drinking, and cursing ("c--t," "f--k," and more). While the movie seems designed to make teens think more deeply about the time they spend on social media, it's more likely to get a knowing nod ... before they go back to TikTok.

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What's the story?

INFAMOUS follows Arielle (Bella Thorne), a teen who just knows she'll be famous if she can get out of her small Florida town. When family problems come to a head for both Arielle and her boyfriend, Dean (Jake Manley), they head to Hollywood. One problem: They need money. But Arielle has a plan to solve their cash problem and achieve her goal at the same time: Start a crime spree, and post their shocking acts to social media, gaining followers and cash as they go.

Is it any good?

It's almost shocking that the "sexy criminal influencer" scenario in this provocative teen film hasn't occurred in real life yet. Infamous is like Bonnie and Clyde meets Natural Born Killers: Like both of those films, it has something to say about how media makes celebrities out of criminals. In this case, though, it's online fans who are responsible for encouraging more crime. They watch the armed robberies that Arielle posts and cheer her on with every like, follow, and positive comment. Infamous won't change society, but at least it offers food for thought around the notion that we make heroes out of those who are willing to do the unthinkable for an audience.

The role of Arielle takes advantage of the reputation Thorne has created for herself -- it's easy to see her as an abrasive, "burn it all down" social media disruptor. And it's that reputation that will draw teens to see her in this role, as well as turn off others at the mention of her name. Manley is capable as ex-con Dean, who mildly fights his girlfriend's fame-seeking criminal notions and whose character is surely an homage to Brad Pitt in Kalifornia -- another lover-on-the-lam movie. In an unfortunate filmmaking choice, Arielle and Dean's gun-toting, Jesus-touting crime spree is sometimes set against pop music like a music video. Between that, the predictability of the script, and the prickly presence of Thorne (who also executive-produces), the film's culturally relevant message is reduced to a snort and an eye roll.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in the media. What's compelling about violent/crime stories? In real life, how is social media being used to try to stop violence?

  • How does social media attention -- or the lack of it -- affect us? Do we rely on it for validation? Is that healthy?

  • How does Infamous depict drug use, drinking, smoking, and profanity? Do you think it's all necessary to tell this particular story or to be authentic to these characters? 

  • Compare this movie to other love stories about outlaws or criminals. What makes this one unique?

  • The film is presented from Arielle's point of view. How do you think it would be different if it was from Dean's point of view? Or from the point of view of the agents trying to stop the crime spree? 

Movie details

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