Taxi Driver Midnight Movie Review
by Bret Dorman
If I lived further away from The Music Box Theatre, I would take a taxi in honor of this weeks Midnight Movie, Taxi Driver. I imagine the conversation between the cabbie and I would be like that Chris Farley character on SNL. Only he would have had no part in making the movie.
The point being, when it comes to Taxi Driver, no matter how much I try to imagine myself as film critic who is observant, articulate and passionate (check out the “In Depth” review here), the passion part takes over completely and dumbs down all my other senses. Remember that part in Taxi Driver when Robert DeNiro is talking in front of the mirror and he says, um, Are you talking to me?
That was awesome.
The Story: Travis Bickle (DeNiro) is a New York Taxi Driver surrounded by people but knows only loneliness. He tries to win the affections of Betsy (Shepherd) and talk some sense into the underage prostitute, Iris (Foster). In the end, it doesn’t seem like anything he does can help him out of his rut and the only way to solve his problems is through “True Force”. Also, he has a mohawk for part of the movie.
Interestingly enough, Travis Bickle is actually not a product of his environment. He isn’t shunned by society or forced through some weird past to be a violent person. From the beginning he sets up his own future by (sub)consciously putting himself in situations where loneliness is the only result. This isn’t a movie about a man going crazy as much as it is a man accepting that he already is.
All the elements of filmmaking are at play here. Bernard Herrmann’s score underlies the deep psychological tensions while romanticizing the night time street of New York. Paul Schrader’s script may seem to ultimately cover little ground in its plot’s forward movement, but it covers every step of Bickle’s journey in full detail. Scorsese’s camera reveals just as much info in its compositions as it does its movements. The cast all nail their roles and each character has their own personality and speech rhythms, while still being primarily a “New York” movie.
Robert DeNiro turns in one of the most subtle, quiet performances of his career and manages to make the most out of a role that is for a good chunk of the script, solitary on the screen. Bickle’s journal entries/voice over help us to get into his mindset and flesh the character out, laying the groundwork for his later, questionably heroic vigilantism.
If you’re like me, when you first saw the movie (or are going into it for the first time) you are aware of two things. 1) “You talkin’ to me?” is from this movie and 2) Its super awesome extraordinarily ultra violent.
1) Yes that line is in this movie and it is a cool part, but you’ll probably find, script wise, Bickle’s rants about how a ‘real rain will wash away the streets’ more interesting and quotable… if only they weren’t so damn long and filled with obscenities and slurs.
2) This movie does have violence, but it happens in the second half, most of which being in the final 15 minutes. Instead of watching this movie waiting for that, expecting only that; watch this movie thinking its an in depth character study at the pathology of loneliness and pent up young male rage.
Taxi Driver is a night time movie. Most of the shots are at night. Makes sense to watch it at night. It’s perfect for the Midnight Movie crowd because its honesty in its ‘call for violence’ is sure to get some shudders from the audience. And if there is one thing Midnight Movie Goers love, its violence, especially violence that’s explicit, gory, and well filmed. The audience will be cheering by the end for our
‘Hero’, ‘Anti-Hero’, ‘Troubled Protagonist’, but will they be cheering for how well done the violence is or the message behind the violence?
In Conclusion, Travis Bickle is a hard character to like, but some people might find him oddly relatable. Just remember, you are (hopefully) a reasonable person who can watch this as a (therapeutic) movie and tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Travis Bickle is not.
Why You Must See It At Midnight: The movie will be sure to attract the scum of the streets of Chicago then cleanse them with the “real rain” of great filmmaking. Rarely is there a movie that reaches into the sewers of society, picks out one of its most troubled members, and elevates them to art.
You know that one scene where Mr. DeNiro yells at everyone and almost fights Albert Brooks…