Film Review: IMDBinge - Taxi Driver
Catherine's 2016 Challenge - watch all 250 of IMDb's top rated films. Today she reviews Martin Scorsese's classic, Taxi Driver, which celebrates its ruby anniversary this year. After 40 years, Taxi Driver is now currently no. 80 on the IMDb list.
At number eighty on the list and frequently included on collections of the best films of all time, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) is considered a classic among classics, even having the privilege of being hailed as one of the late Roger Ebert’s ‘Great Movies’. It was nominated for four Oscars, won three BAFTAs and was nominated for another four. It has a 99% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and 93% from audiences. So I find myself at a complete loss. How did all these people love it so much when I categorically hated it?
In my bid to find out, I reach for my copy of Ebert’s book and flip to the section on Taxi Driver. To set the scene, the plot revolves a young veteran named Travis Bickle (Robert DiNero), who becomes a taxi driver in New York City in an attempt to quell his torturous insomnia. He is a lonely man, living in a run down apartment, making poor attempts to reach out to people and connect. What Ebert has written largely makes sense. He points to the infamous scene in which Travis finds himself in front a mirror, asking ‘Are you talking to me?’. Ebert points out that ‘it is the last line, “Well I’m the only one here,” that never gets quoted’, further claiming that ‘it is the truest line in the film’. Travis is completely alone. When he attempts to actually date a woman, he accidentally repels her when he takes her on a date to see a porno, seemingly somehow ignorant of his gross faux pas. He is truly desperate and in his desperation he pushes people away. The tighter you hold on to some things, the quicker they slip away.
But being lonely, tired and mentally unstable isn’t enough to keep this reviewer interested. Ebert says that he is ‘drawn into Travis’ underworld of alienation, loneliness, haplessness, and anger’. Well, I sure wasn’t. There were a number of moments where I wanted to stop watching. I was bored. Who am I meant to be sympathising with? Who am I rooting for? Definitely not this guy. When Betsy understandably rebuts him after their porno non-date, he blames her for being just like everybody else. When she doesn’t return his calls, he goes to her office to bully and intimidate her. It’s not just that he wants acceptance but he thinks he deserves it. He wants to connect with people but he can’t because what he truly thinks is that he is superior to them.
But Scorsese's movies aren't for or about women. It's obvious that Scorsese isn't advocating this kind of behaviour. In fact, the way in which Scorsese navigates toxic masculinity in many of his films can be both captivating and eye-opening. Ebert may be drawn into the world, but as woman all I can see is a representation of the kind of entitlement, bravado and fragile masculinity that I see around me and across the digital world every day. Forty years on, we know of this problem, we see it, and we're tired of it.
What really irritates me is that there is no comeuppance for Travis whatsoever. It is a subject of some debate whether or not the last section of the movie (where Travis essentially saves the day and is the hero of the hour) is real or imaginary. Either way, the narrative of the film lets him have that moment. It lets him have his satisfaction and that is something I really resent.