Period film: Bonnie and Clyde (TV, 2013)

The tale of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow has been told many times, most recently in a two-part 2013 TV movie.

Both parts of the film open with a flashy title sequence that makes nice use of historic images. Gunfire foreshadows the couple’s grim end at the opening of Part I. My attention was immediately grabbed.

(Image via
(Image via

But my attention didn’t always remain held, despite this promising opening. Both parts are, at times, quite dull — a surprise, given the dramatic and violent nature of the story being told. The film is very nice to look at and the second part is more successful than the first, but there are way too many problems for me to look forward to giving this a watch again.

I’m not usually one to harp too harshly on accuracy. Though I like to play “Spot the Anachronism” as much as the next history buff, I don’t always mind it when small liberties are taken by filmmakers, especially if the period is captured well visually and in mood.

But this retelling of the Bonnie & Clyde tale doesn’t seem devoted to accuracy at all. Like most Bonnie & Clyde fictionalizations, this one paints Bonnie not as an equal conspirator but as the mastermind of the whole deal, playing into the “gun moll” persona that was crafted for her in the media during she and Clyde’s crime spree.

(Image via New York Daily News)
(Image via New York Daily News)

All historic evidence points to the fact that Clyde planned all of the crimes. This re-telling of the story makes it seem like Clyde actually wanted to stop and “go straight,” while Bonnie obsesses over their fame and constantly, obnoxiously repeats the nickname “Bonnie and Clyde” under her breath — emphasis on her name appearing first.

Also a problem is what a small role the “Barrow Gang” – made up of nine people including the couple, but usually traveling in a group of five – play in the crimes in this film. Both Part I and Part II tend to focus on the couple alone, though Clyde’s brother and his wife do enter the picture in Part II. The other members of the gang are nowhere to be seen, further romanticizing and mythologizing the central pair.

(Image via
(Image via

Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger do a decent job in the title roles, offering up a mix of the glamour usually associated with the pair as well as, in a couple of instances, a grungier and more realistic view of them. They do as well as they can with the problematic script.

I mentioned previously that I’m willing to let some inaccuracy slide as long as the period is captured well. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here either. Bonnie and Clyde does look very beautiful, but it offers up a very glossy, cartoon-ish version of the past, and it feels very much like watching modern actors in costume rather than immersing the viewer in its period.

This two-parter isn’t the worst TV movie I’ve seen, but I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. It’s just decent. If you’re unfamiliar with the story and are hoping to learn more about the couple, this isn’t the place to go for factual information. If you’re looking for a few hours of entertainment and don’t go into it expecting award-worthiness or historical accuracy, I’d say its worth a single watch.

2 thoughts on “Period film: Bonnie and Clyde (TV, 2013)

  1. I think we’ve discussed this particular topic before, but I too give up on a period film when the actors (as well as the backgrounds, props, and sets) fail to convince me that they’re not just modern-made elements dressed and painted to look vintage. Using baseball cinema as an example, 61* convinced me, Eight Men Out did not.


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