Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

dir-scr Joshua Caldwell
prd Colin Bates, Shaun Sanghani, Scott Levenson, Michael Jefferson
with Bella Thorne, Jake Manley, Amber Riley, Michael Sirow, Marisa Coughlan, Aaliyah Muhammad, Madison Bready, Rose Lane Sanfilippo, Damon Carney, Joey Oglesby, Michael Page, Lynn Andrews
release US 12.Jun.20,
UK 31.Jul.20
20/US 1h40

riley sirow coughlan

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thorne and manley
There's a loose, colourful vibe to this variation on Bonnie and Clyde, as writer-director Joshua Caldwell evokes a teen fantasy that merges celebrity with life on the edge. Not much about the film is believable, and pretty much everything has been lifted from other movies, including settings, relationships and dialog. But the movie looks great, and the cast is watchable even if the messages get somewhat muddled.
In small-town Florida, Arielle (Thorne) has always known that she was going to be famous, but her plan for Instagram domination isn't working out. She's intrigued by new mechanic Dean (Manley), especially with rumours that he was in prison. As they they become a couple, they're forced on the run. They launch their crime spree with a convenience store robbery, followed by progressively bigger heists as they head toward Hollywood. And Arielle's social media account blows up, turning them into national folk heroes before they join Dean's brother Kyle (Sirow) for a bank job.
In Arielle's mind, fame equals money that will get her out of her miserable backwoods existence. Yes, each story element is a cliche, from Arielle's secret box of getaway cash to her deadbeat stepdad (Oglesby) to the use of 1970s-model cars. Clashes with her friends and screaming rows with her mother (Coughlan) come right on cue, as does the tepid romantic montage and introduction of an illicit handgun. At least the film is nicely shot by Eve Cohen using lurid hues in gorgeous locations.

Thorne is fascinating as a stupid young woman with more than a hint of desperation beneath her bravado. Arielle has no discernible personality of her own, merely saying what's expected to convey a tough-girl attitude. Manley's more observant Dean is actually a tough guy, and the actor underpins him with intelligence and sensitivity. So it's not easy to believe that he'd continue to risk his life for her. Later on, Riley finally adds some complexity as a fan who offers them refuge.

There are some themes swirling around, touching on how teens feel that becoming a household name will solve all their problems. A throwaway sharp comment about how easy it is to buy a gun is undermined by the movie's glorification of several violent altercations. More interesting is how Arielle becomes obsessed with feeding photos and videos to her followers, more concerned with getting a great pic than the fact that she's just killed yet another innocent person. Which makes a point but misses the irony.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 3.Aug.20

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