This was the first time I had ever seen Taxi Driver. I had heard of it, but was surprised to see it on our course list because, well, I had no idea what it was about and was going on the title alone. But seeing as it was included on the materials list for a class on psychopaths, it piqued my interest. There must be more to it than cars.
Taxi Driver had a slow start. As viewers, we weren’t thrown into Travis’s (De Niro) world without a life jacket. We eased into it and watched his downward descent from a guy who has trouble sleeping to a guy who starts thinking he’s some sort of secret service vigilante killer. With that state of mind and unreliable narrator, the scenes were choppy, broken up by just a bit of lackadaisical narration from Travis.
Things didn’t start picking up until Travis walked into Betsy’s office and asked her out for coffee and pie. Because, at first, I just thought he was some weird, regular guy who thought, “Well, I can’t sleep, might as well get a job.” Then he’s ordering apple pie with a single slice of melted cheese and telling Betsy he had the right to talk to her. That was the first red flag for me–when he started talking about having the right to be around her and treating her like he could see right through her. But, still, I rooted for him a bit. I still thought maybe he was just a little strange and would redeem himself. Then he took her to that dirty movie and it was all over. I couldn’t understand what was going through his head. Now he was a weirdo and a pervert. I mean, it’s one thing to be a genius like Lecter or attractive like Bateman, but Travis was creepy to begin with, and then when he completely threw away a relationship with a girl he liked without even trying a little longer first, I didn’t get it.
Then the stalking started and, in my mind, he couldn’t be redeemed after taking Betsy to the inappropriate movie, but when he called and called and called, the psychopath started becoming clearer. Yet, there were almost childish undertones, like psychopath meets Holden Caulfield. (I find it odd that behind the psycho is usually a crushed child.) Sounds like a topic that may be interesting for a research paper, but for my final I’ve chosen the short story route–much more up my alley.
I wasn’t sure if Travis’s idea to shoot the presidential candidate was supposed to be obvious or subtle. I mean, going by the cinematic shots alone they might as well have painted a big target on the candidate’s back. Though, I admit, at first I thought he was on his way to kill Betsy. It was almost like those deals where celebrity stalkers try to kill a politician their fixation doesn’t support. Except Betsy was a Palantine supporter, so perhaps that theory isn’t very sound.
Then comes the Iris story line. I struggled with why Travis had such guilt over not stopping Iris from getting out of his cab that one night. I mean, he holds almost no remorse for offending Betsy (which I get is not as serious as street violence) but the abrupt conscience shift was strange for me–especially when he only went to “see” her to convince her to run. Then when she wouldn’t leave her situation he killed her clients and “boss” in a giant blood bath at the end. When I thought everyone was dead and it was all over, the rug was pulled out from under me when Iris’s “father” (I’m not totally convinced it was really him) sends Travis a letter thanking him for getting his daughter home. Through the letter we found out Travis has been in a coma, but by the time we seem him again he’s all recovered and back to taxi driving. Who should be his most recent client, but Betsy? Travis is a hero now and even Betsy is caught up in the excitement. (Or is she? Again, I’m not convinced Travis wasn’t hallucinating with the odd rearview mirror shot of her face). Then she gets out, he lets her leave without paying, and he drives off, the hero who took down the gangsters.
With all that the film led up to, I thought the ending was a bit anticlimactic. It was interesting while it lasted, but fell flat at the end. Travis was the most mild psycho we’ve had so far and, honestly, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea.