“I know it’s crazy, but I just feel like I got a knack for this s#*t.”
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis and Harvey Keitel
There aren’t many people who don’t know who Thelma and Louise are. For the few that don’t, they are the most iconic female outlaws in film due to their infamous road trip across Middle America in 1991.
After two Arkansas girlfriends decide to take a spontaneous trip for the weekend, they manage to get themselves into serious trouble when one ends up killing a would-be rapist. On the run from the law, the two beeline for Mexico, where they believe they can live there as outlaws for the rest of their lives.
Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis) is a passive, quirky housewife. Being married to Darryl (Christopher McDonald) who is controlling and abusive, she hasn’t really got much to show for herself, apart from a well kept house and straight record. Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon) on the other hand is the total opposite. More of a wild child, she is only really tied down by her monotonous waitressing job. She’s a take no nonsense, straight talking type of girl, with concealed troubled past.
After a stressful day at work, Louise has an idea to get away with Thelma for the weekend on a fishing trip in the mountains. Thelma leaves some microwave meals with a note for Darryl, opting for punishment rather than permission, and Louise doesn’t even tell her boyfriend Jimmy (Michael Madsen) she’s going. Being a travelling musician, his continual lack of commitment to the relationship is just another reason behind the weekend getaway.
On the first night though, they run into trouble. Stopping off in a bar the girls enjoy a drink, but as Louise gets up to leave Thelma is nowhere in sight. She goes out to the car park where Thelma is being forcibly cornered by a man. Instinctively Louise shoots him, killing the would-be rapist. This quick and emotionless reaction from her hints toward a darker side that we are yet to discover.
From here on out, the film is all about the duo’s attempt at escaping the law and trying to reach Mexico. Along the way they have their fair share of mini adventures – some great, others disastrous – including a meeting with a sexy young man named JD (Brad Pitt). It’s easy to see how this role sprung Pitt into mainstream film, his intriguing character brings a new life to the screen which he conveys effortlessly.
The chemistry between Davis and Sarandon is fantastic, grouped with witty dialogue and a perfectly paced nature, director Ridley Scott made sure that this film was definitely not categorised as ‘just another road picture’.
Both lead actresses flawlessly transcribe the personal transformation that each character undergoes. Ironically evolving into a carefree spirit, we see a side to Thelma that allows Davis to shine on screen. She perfectly captures the once downtrodden but blossoming, electric attitude of Thelma with ease. Sarandon also does a fine job in portraying a troubled, hardened character, with an increasing sisterly love toward Thelma.
As well as entertaining an audience, some argue that the film acts as a feminist outcry against the social confinements that women face. Having females as lead characters allowed Thelma and Louise to emotionally connect with each other, in a way in that two male leads couldn’t. Because of this, most men find it hard to relate to the characters, or complain about the stereotypical males in the film.
There is one male character that redeems this view though, Hal (Harvey Keitel), the leading detective of the case. He is sympathetic towards the women as he slowly pieces together the events of their crime, realising it was just an unfortunate situation. Yet his efforts to convince the women to turn themselves in are quashed by a squad of policemen who are determined to catch the women at whatever cost. Whatever the views on the levels of feminism in the film though, it shouldn’t distract from the countless sub-genres of the film that add to the wealth of entertainment, that being action, drama, crime and quite simply, road trip.
The film is more about the journey, than it is the destination, and oh, what a ride they take! The cinematography throughout is beautiful, with the closing shot of the film being one of the most iconic of all time.
Both ladies were nominated for an Oscar for their performances in the 1991 film, yet lost out to Jodie Foster for her role in Silence of the Lambs.
Thelma and Louise is a definite must watch. I can’t recommend it enough.
Star rating: 8/10
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Running time 129 minutes.