Archive Review: Thelma & Louise (1991) – 4/5 Stars

Call it a chick flick, call it aggressive feminism, label it whatever you like, but “Thelma & Louise” is a classic story of female companionship and liberation that challenged what was and in many ways still is a male-centric movie industry. Roles for women in film have expanded over the years, but Thelma and Louise proved women can even be outlaws starring in a fugitive adventure thriller.

Societal messages aside, however, it doesn’t change the fact that Callie Khouri wrote a fantastic character-driven script with unexpected twists and turns and an unforeseeable ending. “Thelma & Louise” might be far from a blood-pumping fugitive crime thriller, but action and excitement is not what this film hangs its hat on.

Even director Ridley Scott, who directed probably the greatest suspense movie with a female lead of all time in “Alien,” recognizes that “Thelma & Louise” is relationship drama at its heart as two women discover themselves as they push each other over the edge.

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon star as the titular characters, one a suppressed housewife and another a chain-smoking waitress who plan a weekend getaway together only to end up trying to get away from the authorities after Louise shoots a man at a bar who tried to rape Thelma. After deciding there’s no way to come clean of their crime, they run for the Mexico border as authorities (led by Harvey Keitel) try and track them down.

Davis and Sarandon are an incredible duo playing the most detailed of characters. Davis as Thelma is the best of the two as she takes Thelma through a complete transformation from warm, acquiescent housewife looking to let loose to a fully committed armed criminal. Sarandon plays Louise as a colder, self-assured type who learns that she really doesn’t have it all together. The two work in perfect balance creating strong, relatable and fascinating characters whose flaws make them so human.

Not much has to be said for Scott’s directing, he gives these characters the attention they need to blossom before us and does just enough to keep us guessing when they’ll do some sudden and unpredictable.

Yes, in this process of self-discovery, the girls both literally and symbolically give the middle finger to the male establishment. From shooting the abusive trickster that attempted to rape Thelma to Louise turning away her boyfriend (Michael Madsen) after he finds her and proposes to her, there’s little sympathy for the male characters. Only Keitel’s detective gets Khouri’s vote as he defends the ladies (despite wanting to catch them) when a young Brad Pitt gets mixed up with them. 

Some of it might seem unnecessary such as the trucker who makes crude gestures to them along the highway, but considering Hollywood’s abuse of the femme fatale, innocent girl and other female thriller/adventure genre archetypes, I’d say it’s a fair trade, especially when these characters are actually very thoughtfully conceived

4/5 Stars

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Callie Khouri
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Brad Pitt, Michael Madsen


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