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THELMA AND LOUISE (director: Ridley Scott; screenwriter: Callie Khouri; cinematographer: Adrian Biddle; editor: Thom Noble; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: Susan Sarandon (Louise), Geena Davis (Thelma), Harvey Keitel (Hal), Michael Madsen (Jimmy), Christopher McDonald (Darryl), Stephen Tobolowsky (Max), Brad Pitt (J. D.), Timothy Carhart (Harlan), Sonny Carl Davis (Albert), Lucinda Jenney (Lena the Waitress), Jason Beghe (State Trooper); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mimi Polk/Ridley Scott; MGM Home Entertainment; 1991)
“Iconic film from the 1990s.

Reviewed by Dennis SchwartzDirector Ridley Scott (“Hannibal”/”Gladiator”/”American Gangster”) juices up this entertaining offbeat fem road movie that surprisingly became a big box-office hit and iconic film from the 1990s. Though it covers familiar road movie/buddy movie turf for males, the reversal of roles gives the pic a fresh look. First-time writer Ms. Callie Khouri keeps it as an inexorable feminist script, sympathetic to the regular good ole gals who because of a violent incident accidentally become rebels and go up against stereotyped piggish men forcing them to react in aggressive ways like never before.

Wisecracking Arkansas diner waitress Louise (Susan Sarandon) and smothered housewife friend Thelma (Geena Davis), locked into a bad marriage, take Louise’s classic 1966 Thunderbird convertible on a weekend holiday fishing trip to a mountain cabin owned by a friend of Louise. Louise is upset with her always on the road musician boyfriend Jimmy (Michael Madsen) for not paying her enough attention and leaves without telling him, while Thelma is just wanting to have some fun and get away for a bit from her controlling loutish car dealer hubby Darryl (Christopher McDonald). Too afraid to ask hubby’s permission, Thelma leaves him a microwave meal and note to explain her absence.

At the first stopover at a honky-tonk roadhouse bar, with cowboy style line dancing, the more worldly Louise has to rescue the airhead Thelma from a would-be rapist (Timothy Carhart) in the parking lot. Louise fatally plugs the guy when he shows no remorse and tells Louise “to suck my cock.” The girls decide not to report the incident to the police (we learn later that Louise was raped in Texas long ago and had a bad experience with the police) and head for Mexico, as the carefree mood shifts. They pickup randy sweet-talking beefcake cowboy JD (Brad Pitt), who sleeps with Thelma in a motel and robs her cash before he splits. To atone for the missing money, Thelma holds up a convenience store. In Oklahoma the girls are caught speeding and pull a gun on the state trooper (Jason Beghe) and lock him in the police car trunk. Bothered by a foul talking sexist truck driver, the desperadoes blow up his truck with their pistols after he refuses to apologize for calling them beavers. Meanwhile concerned Arkansas policeman Hal (Harvey Keitel), the only sympathetic male in the pic, keeps in contact with the girls by phone and tries in vain to get them to surrender and tell their side of the story before it’s too late. But it is too late, as the girls experience freedom and adventure for the first time in their lives and decide they can’t return to their stifling prior lives. It ends in a white fadeout, as the forever changed girls in a moment of reckless abandonment plunge over the majestic Grand Canyon with a posse of police cars giving chase rather than surrender and return to a life of perceived drudgery.

Sarandon and Davis give terrific performances, capturing with verve their troubled ordinary characters who are getting a buzz from their unexpected action adventure. Scott does action pics well, and keeps things visually beautiful, fills the screen with shocking exploitative scenes (this is no arthouse pic, just a colorful mainstream pic that took a wrong turn), moves things along at a brisk pace and wisely makes it more about seeking freedom than being against men. Perhaps too simplistic in answers to women problems and dodgy in offering life lessons, but nevertheless it hit a raw nerve with the public who some twenty years later still remember this pic with a fondness.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”