Thelma & Louise - 1991
Director(s): Ridley Scott
Writer(s): Callie Khouri
Cinematography by: Adrian Biddle
Editor(s): Thom Noble
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald and Brad Pitt
Synopsis: Two best friends set out on an adventure, but it soon turns around to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police, as these two girls escape for the crimes they committed (IMDB).
There are many movies that stand the test off time for various reasons. It could be that the filmmaker was a visionary ahead of his time and now his art is understood (2001: A Space Odyssey). It could be that the movie introduced a new method of effects or how to use the effects in a way people didn’t think possible (Jurassic Park). Maybe it’s just that damn good (Casablanca). But, many are the cases in which the message that was communicating back then is still in the forefront of our society and it still needs a light to be cast down on it. That’s the case for Thelma & Louise, a story of two female friends trying to escape the world after killing a man in self-defense during a rape attempt. The main reason why they are running away is because they are afraid they won’t believe he tried to rape them. Twenty-seven years later and this storyline is as relevant as ever.
If this movie came out today it would be accused of trying to ride the MeToo movement wave.
One of the things that impresses me the most about this movie is the fact that it was the first screenplay Callie Khouri wrote. She would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Original screenplay that year. The story is simple enough, following Murphy’s law that “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”, as they make mistake after mistake leading them closer to getting caught by the cops. But, where the script shines is with the character development of each woman. We see their relationship evolve as they come to accept that they are the only thing that will help them survive this ordeal. Both become more comfortable in their own skin and strive towards taking on the world. Thelma, played by Geena Davis, has the biggest arc as she goes from a broken-down house wife to an “outlaw” full of life and joy, ready to fight for her freedom.
Quick note: some have criticized that men are depicted in this movie as violent, Either as rapistsor robbers. Sadly, people don’t like when a light is shined down on many women’s realities. But I see a balance created with Detective Hal, played by Harvey Keitel; he wants to help them and stop this crazy manhunt they find themselves in.
With two strong and flawed female characters as the leads they needed two great actors to elevate the roles. Inn come Geena Davis (Thelma) and the incredible Susan Sarandon (Louise). Geena Davis is funny, complex and charming throughout the movie. In the beginning, I didn’t like her character as she was submissive to a pig of a husband, but as she let Louise rub off on her and she started to find her own voice her character quickly became one of my favorites of the movie. The star in my eyes is Susan Sarandon as she gave her character this quiet rage behind her eyes as all she wanted was to save her best friend and herself from this awful situation she found herself in. My favorite scene is when she makes the truck driver pull over so she can tell him what big piece of sh*t he is.
Quick note: while everyone says this is the launching pad of Brad Pitt, and technically it is, he is god awful in this movie. He s beautiful to look at, but when he tries to act he is miles away from where he is now. He is completely contrasted by Christopher McDonald’s incredible portrayal of the dumb, misogynistic husband of Thelma. He is hilarious.
This was also a huge stepping stone for Ridley Scott as a director. Up to that point he was known as the Alien, Blade Runner and Black Rain director. A very specific style and tone. But Scott proved himself to be more versatile that many, including Khouri, gave him credit. Scott shot this movie in a way that it felt quasi cinema verité, as the shots were up close and inside a moving car with the top down. The noise of the road and the wind in the hair of the women makes you feel you are with them and you are along for the ride. I loved how he and cinematographer Adrian Biddle shot many of the conversations with a tight shot of the actors faces, perfectly capturing the feeling of claustrophobia the characters felt in the moment. Despite being in a long, wide desert highway, it felt like we were trapped in a box, just like the characters where trapped by the situation.
I do have qualms with the movie. Some moments don’t add up in my head. Brad Pitt’s acting is a little embarrassing and their sex scene felt awkward given the fact that she almost got raped a few days ago. While the ending is symbolic and forever in our zeitgeist, I don’t like the montage they play over the credits. It deflates the ending a bit. The movie holds up incredible well and is a movie that should be talked about more given the climate we find ourselves in.
Thelma & Louise is a mix of genres that somehow works. It’s part dark comedy, part crime, part buddie road-trip and part character study all wrapped up in a great screenplay by Khouri. Scott’s direction helps the audiences connect with both the situation and the women involved in them. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are forever intertwined as they hold hands flying over the canyon. It’s always fascinating movie can represent a movement, an idea or an ideal even year after its release. That’s why I love movies.
Thelma & Louise is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Go watch it.
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