Is it possible to find true love and not have a body count attached to the relationship? Can romance come before bullets? That's part of the premise behind the miniseries "Bonnie & Clyde," which aired on three networks including Lifetime and A&E among them. The results were visually stunning, but the story was rather disappointing overall despite having a rather talented cast eager to entertain.
"Bonnie & Clyde" followed the story of two starcrossed lovers who were destined for great things and a tragic fate at the same time. Clyde Barrow (Emile Hirsch) was a young troublemaker who loved to cause trouble with his brother Buck (Lane Garrison) whenever necessary. They were the apple of their mother's eye (Dale Dickey) who loved them both no matter what they did. That all changed when Bonnie Parker (Holliday Grainger) entered the picture. She was a beautiful woman who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star, but all she got from Tinseltown was a rejection letter. Bonnie managed to turn heads wherever she went, even though she was getting married on the day she met Clyde. Bonnie's mother Emma (Holly Hunter) warned her daughter that Clyde would only get her into more trouble, but she chose to become his partner in crime literally as they started robbing banks. The criminal couple caught the attention of reporter P.J. Lane (Elizabeth Reaser) and lawman Frank Hamer (William Hurt) who were looking to use Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree for different purposes. PJ wanted to sell newspapers and Frank wanted to stop them by any means necessary. Unfortunately, the bodies started to pile up for the couple who recruited a recented released from prison Buck and his young wife Blanche (Sarah Hyland) to be their partners. As their fame grew, the couple started to realize that this wasn't going to end well, but they kept going knowing full well that their luck was running out. Will Hamer catch up to them or will they get away scot free?
In terms of questions, many will obviously know from the 1967 movie and actual events that Bonnie and Clyde's story did not have a happy ending. They ended up dying in a bloody shoot out that made them infamous for many decades to come. As for the miniseries, it had the making of being something memorable because it appeared to be promoted to telling a different spin of the famous couple, but it didn't really offer anything new with the exception of a more violent spin to the original movie. The story itself seemed to be told in a rather clinical approach that took the focus away from the on-screen romance that was supposed to be unfolding in a matter of minutes. The miniseries should have spent a little more time in making Hirsch's Clyde and Grainger's Bonnie more of a genuine couple than partners in lust. Sure, Hirsch and Grainger had chemistry to spare, but their characters weren't always given much to do besides plotting their next move or always running from the police. In terms of the supporting cast, Hurt and Reaser helped to bring some moments of levity and shock value. Hurt's Hamer was designed to be an extremely precise person, but he had one memorable where he got extremely upset that the couple outsmarted him. He got so angry that he shot up a hotel bed. The scene was brutal, but effective in demonstrating how Hurt's Hamer was a force to be reckoned with for everyone involved. Reaser's P.J. brought a level of charm as the character plotted to make the couple famous, but her most memorable moment came when she realized that she should've been more objective in telling their story. Despite her best efforts, Hyland's Blanche was no match for Estelle Parsons' Oscar winning version of the role in the original movie. She brought a different level of spunk to the character, but Parsons' version still reigns supreme.
As for breakout performances, Grainger and Hirsch stood out as they tried to re-imagine the infamous duo in their own ways with different results. Grainger brought a level of danger and charm to Bonnie as she plotted to great lengths to become famous. She made Bonnie an unpredictable character who could simply turn men into putty in her hands with simple smile or a wink of encouragement. Grainger also made Bonnie at times vulnerable and a villainess who shot first before asking any genuine questions. Her most memorable scene came during Bonnie's trial when she charmed the jury into believing her lies that she was just an innocent woman seduced by a bad boy. She had a genuine rapport with Hunter that wasn't fully explored beyond a few brief scenes before Bonnie's mother disappeared in the background for most of the story. Hirsch, on the other hand, had the challenging task of making his version of Clyde more memorable than Warren Beatty's in the movie. He came close at times, but he just missed the mark because the story focused too much on Clyde's visions that were always pretty accurate rather than what made the character truly tick. He made Clyde a mixture of vulnerability and anger that always managed to rise to the surface whenever trouble arrived. Hirsch's most memorable scene came towards the end of the miniseries when he realized that he couldn't outrun his grim fate forever. He demonstrated a look of quiet resignation when he realized that he wasn't going to have a happy ending at all with Bonnie, unless there were bullets involved.
"Bonnie & Clyde" premiered on December 8th and 9th and airs on Wednesdays at 9:00 pm on A&E. Check your local listings for future airings.
Verdict: Hirsch and Grainger had solid chemistry that was marred by a slow paced story that overly romanticized everything, even the bloody finale.
TV Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)