On the surface, Bella Thorne’s new movie Infamous could be described as a modern spin on the crime-fueled legend of Bonnie and Clyde. With her character Arielle trading in her small town existence for the life of an Instagram-famous criminal, the major theme of writer/director Joshua Caldwell’s film takes shape, with a big question sat square in the middle of the action: just how far will you go to become famous?
It’s the answer to that question that makes Infamous an extremely timely thriller, while also delivering what Bella Thorne considers as the “huge fucking message” the movie has to offer its audience. I learned this when I spoke to Thorne herself, during a Zoom conversation to promote Infamous, which was extremely fitting as she seems to feel this movie will work best as a parable for the Zoomer generation. She laid this all out for me as follows:
It’s such a huge fucking message of the movie… how far are we willing to take, how much are we trying to get? And I think that’s a huge relatable message for everybody, especially the Gen-Z [audience] that’s really grown up in this life, that has learned love through social media. We can’t really separate it as much as the generation before us can, because they remember so much more of a time without it, and for us we just learned love through it. So it’s much harder to kind of separate those things and be healthy mentally with social media, it’s pretty difficult. And a lot of people are like, ‘Fuck. How much? How much of myself am I willing to give to get a little of something that I want? Or something that I think I want?’
Bella Thorne’s protagonist, Arielle, is introduced to us in the moments she’s being apprehended by law enforcement officials. Slumped against a wall with phone in hand, she addresses her followers one last time before surrendering to officers with some high-powered weaponry similar to the weapons she herself gets to wield during Infamous’ big crime spree. With a self-assured tone in her voice, Thorne’s character addresses the audience and tells us, point blank, that she always knew she’d be famous.
This is what really fuels the big message behind Infamous, as right from the beginning, we know that Arielle is going to pursue her dreams no matter what. After meeting supposed bad boy Dean (Jake Manley) and falling in love with him, fate seems to provide the path she needs to follow to internet stardom. From that point, it’s a march of escalation that sees our protagonist seizing her fate, and then some.
Normally, at some point in the sort of story Infamous has to offer, that lesson would see Arielle shirk off the path to stardom and become remorseful of her behavior, especially towards the end of Infamous’ story. It’s a trope-filled path to the usual moral lessons we expect from traditional crime stories, and Bella Thorne knows that story well enough that she wanted to avoid those trappings altogether.
In the interest of providing Infamous with a strong female protagonist who was so assured of her fate, she’d pursue it to the end with no remorse, Thorne kept that intent in mind when playing Arielle, with the typical headstrong bravado that’s seen her conquer many a taboo subject in the world of entertainment. Most importantly, she wanted to avoid seeing her character fall under the influence of any man, elevating Arielle past the point of an accomplice or a love interest. Strength was the goal, and Bella Thorne injects that quality into her Infamous performance without question, as she described below:
Speaking on that side of things, we wanted to make [Arielle] completely and utterly sure of every decision she makes. She is a strong woman in that sense, she knows what she wants and she’s going to get it. Whether that’s right or wrong, we don’t see it enough on screen for women to be powerful in their decision to be completely like ‘No, this is what I want.’ So much of the time we have it left up for debate, or they have to be so likable and so relatable, and we have to say ‘Oh no, don’t do it’. And they do it and then they learn from it, and they say ‘No, I shouldn’t have done it’. We were just like, ‘No, we want to be strong on Arielle. She is a woman of her choice. Whether her choice is right or wrong, you cannot leave that up for debate. She wanted what she wanted.
For Bella Thorne, movies like Infamous are an opportunity to get sucked into intriguing stories, and the characters that play them out. Whether anyone approves of Arielle’s destiny or not is their own issue, as this social media anti-hero knows what she wants out of life, and works towards it without apology. It makes for some interesting viewing, and a performance that burns with confidence like the hot summer sun.
And you can watch it for yourself when you see [Infamous](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infamous(2020film), which is currently available for rental on VOD, as well as showing in some drive-in theaters nationwide.