Friday, September 3, 2010

#176 Thelma & Louise (1991)


Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Brad Pitt, Chris McDonald

What some might casually write-off as a feminist-feel-gooder actually has a lot more guts than just that. Thelma and Louise are two completely ordinary Arkansas women, both a bit doomed by their discontent with their own lives. Thelma (Davis) is a housewife who tolerates her rug salesman husband's tantrums, and Louise pours coffee at a roadside diner for a living. Both agree to head off for the weekend and 'let their hair down.' Thelma even opts to tell her husband in a note--too terrified to speak with him about it.

Like typical chicks, they loosen up after a couple of roadside bar margaritas, and Thelma succumbs to lusty temptation by a handsome cowboy who asks her to dance. This takes a horrific turn, however, when he attempts to rape her in the parking lot later that same evening. Louise comes to save the day, and the two end up being to blame for a violent outburst that ends the man's life.

Thus begins the convertible scenes against a desert sunset, country music on the radio, hair blowing in the wind... and that's fine. As viewers, we expect it, and we even want it for these women. This film has all the great traditions of a roadie film, but it packs a few surprise punches as well. Chick flicks take something like this down a road of haphazard goofy scenes, but this film takes those opportunities to have fun.. but with real heart. As the two dig themselves further and further into the hole-- now Wanted in three states-- they seem to be doing something not just for themselves but for all down-trodden, hopeless women.

Personally, I thought it was brilliant. I am the first to stick my nose up at bad romantic and/or feminist comedies-- well, at least modern day ones. I found this movie to be gutsy and strong, while still showcasing realistic 'oh shit' moments and mistakes. It has something that previously in cinema really was only shown through male characters, and for that reason it felt fresh and exciting. Not to mention, I love when films get you rooting for the bad guy... err... girls!

Upon reading some reviews of the film from the time of its initial release, I found Roger Ebert's critique of the ending to be exceptionally interesting and spot-on. I quote:
I would have rated the movie at four stars, instead of three and a half, except for one shot, the last shot before the titles begin. This is the catharsis shot, the payoff, the moment when Thelma and Louise arrive at the truth that their whole journey has been pointed toward, and Scott and his editor, Thom Noble, botch it. It's a freeze frame that fades to white, which is fine, except it does so with unseemly haste, followed immediately by a vulgar carnival of distractions: flashbacks to the jolly faces of the two women, the roll of the end credits, an upbeat country song.

I agree with his critique in citing this as a bit gutless for a movie with so much piss and vinegar. The film was given a brilliant pay-off, but in the editing execution, they chickened out. Indeed, a damn shame.

Still a great movie in my book though. A smart, but easy feel-good for BOTH men and women.

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