Infamous movie review & film summary (2020)

It’s an added bonus to this context that Thorne has her own real-life background as social media master, the kind who gets paid $65,000 for an Instagram post. She’s the perfect person to take viewers through the looking glass of Instagram infamy, and that’s what makes the clumsiness and shallow nature of “Infamous” all the more frustrating. 

This film from writer/director Joshua Caldwell has few good original ideas of its own, and even starts with a stubborn antiquity: Arielle works as a waitress at an old-fashioned diner, and her partner in crime Dean (Jake Manley) is introduced working on a car, as if he were cosplaying Martin Sheen in “Badlands.” Minutes into “Infamous,” Arielle has become convinced that something greater awaits her in Hollywood and has told off her friends, ditched her job, attacked her mom’s boyfriend for stealing her money, and paired up with the troublesome Dean. The two take off from their small Florida town after accidentally killing Dean’s abusive dad, and because they need cash, decide to rob a gas station. In an undersold eureka moment, Arielle decides to film it, and then post it. They quickly gain a lot of followers, because this is America, the script shrugs. 

Here’s the bad news: the Clyde to Thorne’s Bonnie is a total dud, and so too for the most part is the rebellious spree they go on, which takes them across America’s southland, and with an escalating number of followers with each crime. Manley’s character is so underwritten that it’s more fun to imagine what this movie would be like if Arielle did the bank robberies solo, holding a gun and a phone at the same time. You’d much rather follow Arielle than be weighed down by Dean, who is technologically averse to the point of being irrelevant in his own story. 

Aside from “Bonnie and Clyde,” this is also like a synth-heavy cover of “Badlands,” with specific dreamy montages meant to recall Terrence Malick’s brand of romance, especially in the moments where Arielle and Dean are falling in love and taking on old-fashioned rebels just as much as they are taking off their clothes. Here, the white and pink of a descending sun is matched with their candy-colored clothes as they wander the beach, re-contextualizing Malick’s magic hour with a neon aesthetic. It’s a more successful visual brush than the action scenes in which Caldwell lets the camera run for longer than usual, like when they rob a weed dispensary in one take, or have a high-speed shoot-out with Arielle shooting at cops behind them, and frantically yelling at Dean in the driver’s seat. You can see what the filmmakers are going for here, but the moments still feel like there’s not enough happening, making them more stagnant than they are thrilling. 

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