It’s fast becoming a 21st century formula. Couple on the run + social media = crime thriller with plenty to say about fame and modern life in general. The “they’re young, they’re in love and they kill people” idea has been with us since Bonnie And Clyde, who handed over the baton to True Romance and Natural Born Killers, and more recently it was brought up to date with Queen And Slim. Now comes Infamous, which very much has fame on its mind – and an unexpected wink in the direction of a certain comedy.
Rebellious teenager Arielle (Bella Thorne) dreams of fame and sees her Instagram account as the way of making it happen. After things come to the inevitable head at home, she seeks shelter with her ex-con boyfriend Dean (Jake Manley), but after an altercation at his house the pair go on the run. With little or no money, they start robbing their way across the southern states with Arielle recording their exploits online. It’s not long before they’re a viral sensation. She has the fame she’s been looking for, but she also finds the thrill of crime irresistible.
The couple are a different proposition to the pair at the centre of Queen And Slim, where their notoriety was accidental, as was their perceived crime. This time round, Arielle and Dean’s reason for fleeing isn’t deliberate, but the subsequent robberies and killings most certainly are. But for Arielle “it’s not about the money”, it’s all about the fame, the followers, the knowledge that millions of people she’s never met know who she is. And, in what is also something of a morality tale for 2020, it has consequences that she refuses to accept. Dean, on the other hand, has his feet more firmly on the ground and finds it impossible to understand her obsession with “likes”.
The social media angle provides a commentary on the fragility of fame, however it happens. For Arielle it means having to constantly add new and more sensational videos: the longer she leaves it between uploads, the more the followers drift away and she simply can’t bear that. If that sounds familiar, that’s where the comedy reference comes in. Remember Ingrid Goes West? There’s no avocado on toast this time, but Infamous treads much the same ground in highlighting the potential emptiness of internet fame for those who choose to pursue it. It’s a parallel that even extends to the neon style graphics used in the credits.
As with its predecessors, the film leans heavily on the performances of its central couple. Both Thorne and Manley have the necessary chemistry for us to engage with them and, as they’re both impossibly good looking, they’re also Insta-perfect. While the film doesn’t have anything ground breaking to say about the nature of fame and social media, it has a glossy style and pace that will appeal to a younger audience – and may even encourage them to give those forerunners a try.
Drama, Thriller | Cert: 15 | Vertigo Releasing | Digital, 31 July 2020 | Dir. Joshua Caldwell | Bella Thorne, Jake Manley, Michael Sirow, Amber Riley.