Thelma & Louise (1991) Directed By Ridley Scott
Without seeing Thelma & Louise for a good many years, it had attained a sort of classic status in my mind. I thought it was entertaining and empowering. I had watched it as a child and then as a teenager and a young adult, always thinking I related somehow. I guess it must have been the friendship between women, the beauty of them (with head scarfs and sunglasses and later with messed-up hair and double denim outfits) and their convertible, the life on the road and the unwillingness to back down that I admired. But were those things really in this film?
What happens to the women is a line of bad events and awful portrayals. Thelma has an abusive unappreciative husband, both women have experienced rape (Thelma on screen, Louise somewhere in Texas as we learn), Louise shoots the rapist, they do not go to the police because they are mistrustful of the system's helpfulness to women. Instead they go on the run and the rest of the men they meet are there to steal their money, rat on them, hurl abuse and so forth. Completely let down by and alienated from the male-dominated society these women have no choice, death is inevitable so they drive into theirs off a cliff in Grand Canyon.
So, women are doing what men have always been doing in road movies and Westerns. Except these ladies are often portrayed as stupid. Can you explain to me why they never think of changing their vehicle to something less shining when they are on the run? Why does Thelma need to be portrayed as stupid and out of control for the rape scene? Don't smart women get raped? And why on earth would they not choose the shortest route to Mexico when they are on the run? Is it really such typical feminine behavior to be illogical and refer to some emotional damage as a reason why you won't drive through Texas when you are wanted by the FBI?
I am offended by the script this movie is based on. I don't mind the ending, though. And after all the disappointment, I still hold a little place in my heart for the idea of Thelma & Louise, the monumental scenery they drive in (good photography and look all around), the internal movement towards feeling alive and free. But this is mostly a fiction, which does not appear in the actual film.
It's unbelievable to me that such an average picture as Thelma & Louise can cause such controversy. This movie has been accused/labeled as feminist, anti-men, genre inventing, groundbreaking, attitude changing, promoting gun use amongst women amongst other things. I have to also point out that European audiences were probably not so up in arms about this film as US audiences were, although I do remember having an argument at a party sometime in the early 90's about this picture.
An Arkansas waitress Louise (Susan Sarandon) and her married friend Thelma (Geena Davis) leave for a weekend in the country. At the first bar they stop at Thelma gets involved with a man who tries to rape her in the bar parking lot. Louise catches the would-be-rapist in the act and unable to control her emotions shoots the man dead. They flee the scene of the crime in Louise's '66 Thunderbird. What follows is the pairs attempt to reach Mexico and start a new life free of the clutches of the police.
In essence, Thelma & Louise is a buddy road movie. Yes it has two women as the main protagonists who shoot a lot of stuff up and act like men normally do in these genre movies, but so what? The script is so poor in this film that initially you can't believe how dumb these women are, yet later we are suppose to suspend our belief and accept the enlightenment that descends on these characters. We never believe or understand how Thelma & Louise reach the point of no return, how these women suddenly attain depths of thought that have otherwise been absent for most of the film. Unfeasible plot twists and a weird mash-up of serious issues and broad humor add to the mess. Of course this looks great, Ridley Scott at least can still shoot a good looking picture, but does anyone agree that since Alien and Blade Runner, Scott has been disappointing?
You know you're in trouble watching a movie when Michael Madsen (Jimmy, Louise's boyfriend) is the only slightly sympathetic male character. The men in this movie all shit on the women at some point, just to emphasize the point that all men are bad. Bradd Pitt probably makes the biggest impression as a con-man cowboy (which again is saying something about the quality on show!) Harvey Keitel is wasted as the cop who thinks he can help Thelma and Louise. One thing that deserves a special mention is the soundtrack to this film, has there been a worse soundtrack in living memory?
I'd be quite happy never to sit through this one dimensional, cliche ridden film ever again. It was worse than I remember it. Even as basic Hollywood entertainment this felt hollow. And if you want to see some kick ass action movie with ladies and guns, which doesn't attempt to patronize the audience with some obvious quasi feminist angle (actually the kind of thing that gives feminism a bad name), try Les Petroleuses for size.