I'll admit that the first time I saw Taxi Driver I didn't really get it. I guess that it was just so outside of my experience of what a movie should be, and I really had no idea what to expect from it. Thankfully, I gave it another chance and watched it again, and it has since become a favorite. Just like Fight Club, this is a movie that a lot of people simply just wouldn't get. I realize that I might sound somewhat patronizing when I say that about certain movies, but what else can I say? I'll admit that maybe why I didn't like Donnie Darko might have something to do with the fact that I didn't get it. After all, it's pretty well-liked amongst critical circles. Maybe I need to see it again. See, that's not so hard to admit, is it?
Anyway, I mentioned this already in my review to The Bridge on the River Kwai, but what's so good about Deniro's performance in this movie is that I find myself somewhat feeling for the guy at the beginning. Sure, he seems a little odd, but I feel like I'm a bit odd sometimes too. He's also filled with a sense of discontent, and he's distanced himself from the rest of society. I know how that feels on a certain level as well. Not only that, but I can totally understand why Cybill Shepherd would catch his eye the way she did.
Of course, the moment where he completely and irrevocably loses me is when he takes her to the porn theater. It's not even that he weighed the pros and cons before taking her. He really seems to have no idea that taking her there might have been a bad idea. Still, by this point I'm invested enough in the character to see where he's going to go from there, and boy is it a dark place.
I guess what I really didn't understand was the irony of the ending. He winds up being a hero, but the only reason he did something "heroic" was because he couldn't successfully complete the non-heroic task of assassinating a Presidential candidate. It was society's lucky break that he wound up taking out his psychosis on some people who probably had it coming. Also, you have to love that Betsy starts to show interest in him again after his "heroic" deed. Did she completely forget that he's the guy who took her to the porno? Apparently, fame does strange things to people - which is just one of the many lessons of this movie.
I figure that some people just don't like looking at the dark side of humanity. To them, it's depressing to have to deal with the themes of a movie like this. For me, it's cathartic, as I can see the natural progression of some of my darker thoughts and be reminded of why I don't go down those roads. (Man! That really sounds like I'm about to snap at any moment! Don't get me wrong, I don't have dark thoughts very often, but I'd be lying if I said that I never get them.) I obviously wouldn't want to only watch movies like this one - that's why I have I Love You, Man and the Toy Story movies. Still, movies are a reflection on life, and there's more to life than the fun and happy stuff.