Infamous is an American crime thriller written and directed by Joshua Caldwell. Arielle Summers (played by Bella Thorne) is bored with her average life in sunny Florida, and is desperate to leave. Soon she meets Dean Taylor (played by Jack Manley), the good-looking ‘bad boy’ that has every girl’s attention, including Arielle’s. Having just been released from prison for armed robbery and assault, Dean has to live with his ‘drunk of a father’ if he is to have a chance at a normal life. But when an accident happens and Dean’s father ends up dead, all bets are off. At the same time, after a violent argument at home after her savings are stolen, Arielle leaves and takes Dean with her as they set out on the road to Hollywood in search of a new life, one step closer to the fame Arielle so desperately desires.
The 21st century comes with a lot of baggage, including social media and mobile phones. The constant need to capture every small moment in our lives, to some, cannot be justified. However, to Arielle, it is everything. We see within the first 10 minutes how she obsesses over Instagram and the ‘Insta Famous’. We see her desire for the ‘likes’ and the ‘followers’. She refuses to only have the 18 likes on her latest photo and denies the existing 49 followers. She wants more. When she gets invited to a party with her friends, she gets caught in a fight with another girl. Everyone is standing with their phones out and filming the whole thing. The next day Arielle sees the video online, and along it, the comments – “world star worthy”, “check out this sick ass fight” and “this bitch is rad”. She is thrilled and because of this, she gains new followers.
Firstly, I just want to point out that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film with so much swearing in. It’s like F-bomb city. Swearing should be used to extend the passion or anger you have for something or someone, to make a particular point. It’s constant use seems pointless and rather tedious and devalues the film.
Infamous has been dubbed as the “modern day Bonnie and Clyde”. Arielle, who refuses to be called Ariel (like the mermaid) and only pronounces her name as [are-e-elle], is a naive young woman with an obsession to be famous. We see her at the beginning sitting on the floor of a bank that’s been robbed and surrounded by armed guards. She suddenly breaks the fourth wall, smirks and tells the audience the dream she most longs for; “for as long as I can remember, I knew I was going to be famous”. The fourth wall is only broken twice in the film, once at the beginning and then at the very end. It’s almost as if she’s the narrator, starting it off and then ending it, completing her story.
Now on the run with her boyfriend Dean, they realise they need money if they are to make it all the way to Hollywood from Florida. They decide to rob petrol stations and weed dispensaries to get some quick cash whilst Arielle films it. This of course gets the ‘fame game’ started. Dean isn’t happy with the idea of posting a robbery on social media, but after being persuaded that they won’t get identified and tracked by the police, he gives in. “A couple of teenagers robbing their way across America. That’s worth following…something like this can make us famous” announces Arielle, who is in her element as the followers on Instagram increase.
The cinematography and picturesque scenes are beautifully captured. The images that come from each scene are aesthetically pleasing, colourful and bright. The shots at times are clean and precise, as well as having the juxtaposition of the rough neighbourhood and the violence of the robberies. What I also found to be quite remarkable was the lack of make-up on Arielle. Most modern day films feature lead females who are constantly ‘glammed up’. I like the fact that Arielle only wears make-up when she feels like she wants to, either for work or for a party. When she meets Dean, she is bare- faced and beautiful. What’s also intriguing is that despite the “lack” of makeup, Arielle strives to achieve Instagram fame even though in the real world, people would assume you have to be perfect and beautiful to achieve such a thing. Caldwell certainly questions these modern preconceptions which, as a young female myself, I applaud.
Two other characters pop up briefly, Amber Riley as Elle and Michael Sirow as Kyle. Both characters are dull and unfortunately don’t feature for long enough to make any type of impression. The only thing that could be worth mentioning is that Riley’s performance of Elle was peculiar and quite confusing as she was shy, quiet and didn’t really have too much to say. The film may have no real plot but Infamous is compelling and intense throughout. There seems to be something happening in every scene. 100 minutes feels like 60 as you never get bored. It’s mostly fast-paced, dramatic and ‘in your face’ but I like the contrast where there are slow scenes that feel quiet and delicate. Infamous puts things into perspective, especially the ending (spoiler alert).
“I believe in fate. I believe the universe has a plan for me, for you, for everybody… so my question is, is this my destiny? Is this what I’ve been fighting for?”. Indeed, what was it all for? Was she realistic enough in the end to know she could never make it to Hollywood and that fame doesn’t stop you from being human. “You promised me Hollywood, baby” – and Hollywood is what she gets, just not her idea of it. The fame comes with the people screaming her name, the fans outside with their phones out wanting to get a photo with the new and improved Arielle 2.0. Even when she’s being arrested and dragged out from her crime, she smirks when she sees that she’s made it. She becomes (in)famous.
Infamous is released in the UK on digital platforms by Vertigo Releasing on July 31st.