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Thelma & Louise (1991)


The Feminist Rampage The Decade Was Waiting For!
The Feminist Rampage The Decade Was Waiting For!

Genre: Crime Drama

Starring: Geena Davis (The FlyBeetlejuice), Susan Sarandon (The Rocky Horror Picture ShowThe Hunger)

Directed By: Ridley Scott (GladiatorBlade Runner)

Overview: While on a weekend getaway, Louise shoots to death her best friend Thelma’s rapist. The two go on the lam, heading South to Mexico.

I’ve seen Thelma & Louise before. It was one of those blockbusters that was just right for the likes of a Saturday afternoon on the TBS of the 90s. Now that I’ve seen Thelma & Louise again 20 years later, I think back at those times and I’m reminded that we have indeed come a long way. Big hair isn’t quite so copious, music isn’t as brutal, and caricatures on screen aren’t as ridiculous. On the down side Genna and Susan aren’t getting any younger, and for the ladies, neither are Harvey Keitel, Brad Pitt, and that trucker with the magic tongue.

Louise (Susan Sarandon) is a freewheeling, free-spirited gal working as a waitress. Her best friend Thelma (Gina Davis) has an overbearing, just-past-the-borderline-into-Creepsville-abusive husband, the cap-toothed and wide-eyed Darryl (Christopher McDonald, probably best known for his role of goofy Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore). These two Southern redheads have plans to tear it up on a weekend getaway – all while tragic music blasts out of Louise’s ‘66 Thunderbird. Thelma sneaks away without Darryl’s permission, his fishing gear and her .38 revolver.

Oh isn't is just so quaint and cute.
Oh isn't is just so quaint and cute.

It doesn’t take long before they drive to a bar, dress too sexy, drink too much and dance too seductively with Harlan (Timothy Carhart). From there ‘No Means Maybe’ and the dirty rapist gets shot in the heart by Louise. Then we move to a plethora of bad woman driving scenes as the two try to figure out what to do next. The cops are on the case, the ladies are on the lam, and they decide Mexico is the way to go, ramping up the crimes of necessity as they go.

This film is clearly set in the South, if it’s not obvious enough from all that nausea-inducing New Country we’re forced to montage through. The characters are either laughable-in-a-good-way buffoons or decent, regular people with caring and empathy and the sort of stuff you don’t usually see in angry feminist film. Thelma’s husband Darryl is an outrageous middle-class redneck sleaze who keeps her under his thumb. He’s in such awe when he finds out his wife is on a rampage that he steps bug-eyed in his own pizza, all while the goodly, down-to-Earth and understanding cop Hal (Harvey Keitel) is giving Darryl the bad news. Thelma’s a flighty, shy thing who’s out to have a good time. She’s easily seduced, but has in Louise a killer chaperon. It’s obvious Louise has been burned before and rape is a particularly… touchy subject for her. She’s tough as nails and right around the time you expect her to up and go Lesbian on Thelma, she instead calls her goodly, down-to-Earth and understanding boyfriend Jimmy (Michael Madsen), if you can call his rage-strewn table tossing ‘goodly’. He’s got what you’d call ‘depth’. Then there’s J.D. (Brad Pitt), the young puppy-dog-eyed hitchhiker smitten by Thelma. Aside from Louise and her crazy streak, I found J.D. to be the most believable, well-rounded character – someone who actually had his own motivations and wasn’t following some string of pre-destined road of obviousness.

Thelma & Louise is not billed as Comedy, but it’s often filled with humorous moments, though I frequently recalled them to jostle the mood of the thing. When it tries to be comedic, it's not really all that funny. It’s goofy without the laughter. The characters’ antics give us a taste of the bombasticism found in films like Raising Arizona and True Romance, but they don’t push it far enough, making those moments awkward hiccups amidst the drama. It's not that Thelma & Louise hasn't aged well. It's still pretty timeless, pretty entertaining, and terrifically acted. It’s a fun little road trip outlaw-girl movie but the story’s about as dusty as the lone roads our two heroines travel down, and let’s not forget that it has one of the most grotesque soundtracks in cinema history.

Somewhere along the way it gets serious.
Somewhere along the way it gets serious.

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 7 Mood: 7

Overall Rating: 78% (Worth The Trip)

Maybe back in ’91, Thelma & Louise was something, but today it smacks too much of exaggeration, and I’m not just talking the bouffant hairdos and the horn-dog trucker who keeps tonguing the air at the ladies expecting them to like it (played by Marco St. John, I really liked that character actually). I hope it’s because we’ve come a long way since the 90s but today Thelma & Louise doesn't feel like an integral feminist film. Thelma & Louise tries to be both wacky and profound but ends up being master of none.

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