Thelma & Louise (1991)

Review #1,470

Director:  Ridley Scott
Cast:  Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Brad Pitt
Plot:  An Arkansas waitress and a housewife shoot a rapist and take off in a '66 Thunderbird.

Genre:  Drama / Adventure / Crime
Awards:  Won 1 Oscar - Best Original Screenplay.  Nom. for 5 Oscars - Best Director, Best Leading Actress (x2), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Runtime:  130 mins
Rating:  M18 for strong language, and for some violence and sensuality
Distributor:  MGM (Park Circus)

“I don't remember ever feeling this awake.”

What a great slice of early ‘90s Americana this is.  In the aesthetic spirit of films like Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986) and Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993), Thelma & Louise sees hotshot British director Ridley Scott deliver one of his most unabashed entertainments—a road movie that’s never about the end of the road.  

Written by Callie Khouri, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Thelma & Louise belongs to that rare breed of Hollywood movies that thrive on being markedly different.  Starring Susan Sarandon (Louise) and Geena Davis (Thelma) as two very good friends on their weekend out, away from the routine of work and domestic life respectively, the film takes a dramatic U-turn when Louise shoots a man who tries to rape Thelma.  

With such outstanding performances by Sarandon and Davis, it’s hard not to fall in love with their characters, even if they are running away from the law.  They aren’t criminals, but luckless women who dig themselves a hole they can’t climb out of.  But it is precisely a hole they must dig—and then climb out of—for this is a film about the relentless agency of the female.  

Caught in the web of masculine authority—and sweet talk—to which there is no escape, both Thelma and Louise chart a path together in pursuit of freedom, while the law comes at them just as relentlessly.  A gorgeously youthful Brad Pitt (his breakthrough role) also stars as a young student who tries to seduce a smitten Thelma, while Harvey Keitel plays a sympathetic investigator, with Michael Madsen as Louise’s estranged lover.  

Scott’s trademark muscular filmmaking style is breathtaking for the reason that it first acts as jarring contrast (almost akin to an amplified male gaze) to the passive femininity of Thelma and Louise, but as the film changes gears, we see a shift in the duo’s characterisations and perspectives, with the style complementing their newfound machismo.  

No one who has seen Thelma & Louise will ever forget Hans Zimmer’s unbelievably dexterous score, with the music making itself known from the opening credits, and in particular, the soulful track titled “Thunderbird” that occurs later in the film, creating what I feel is the sound of unbridled freedom.  It’s one of Zimmer’s most brilliant themes, perfectly capturing the characters’ journey to its bittersweet inevitability.

Verdict:  One of Ridley Scott’s most unabashed and unforgettable of entertainments—a road movie that’s never about the end of the road.  





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