Thelma & Louise (1991)
To start, I have to apologize for the lack of posts. I’m getting into midterms so my schedule has been: School, homework, sleep with no movie watching. In fact, today’s movie is the first I’ve watched in days! I’ll try to add more lists in the event of no post as I hate to rely on the contemporary pre-written posts I have. If I post too many of them in a day I feel like I’m veering away from this blog being mostly about movies that aren’t out this year. Anyway, to today’s film.
Until today I’d never seen Thelma & Louise, I know…I know. It was another Women in Film class movie and I have to say, it definitely speaks to all women everywhere. For a movie made in 1991 its themes of feminine friendship and respect still hold water today. I was doubly shocked to discover Ridley Scott directed this….really? I mean I know Scott created our first (and only) strong female in a sci-fi film with Alien but I never once thought he was the guy who made this. Regardless, Thelma & Louise is fun, strong, and a must-watch!
Thelma (Geena Davis) and her best friend Louise (Susan Sarandon) are going on a vacation to a mountain cabin for a weekend. Unfortunately, trouble comes upon them when Thelma is almost raped and Louise kills the man. On the run from the law, Louise plans to head to Mexico…she just needs money. With one series of bad events after another Thelma and Louise go on a crime spree they can’t get out of.
The strongest thing I connected to in watching this was the emphasis on luck (or fate). It’s something I loved about Woody Allen’s Match Point (a complete 180 from this movie I know) in that you question whether these two women are fated to be where they are or “if some people just get lucky,” or in this case unlucky. I watched this with a class and I couldn’t stand Thelma. I mean, had they not stopped at the bar she wouldn’t have been attacked but again, the sequence of events that transpire, and if one thing hadn’t built on top of another, is fascinating. You can’t help but question the idea of these events being predetermined or not because they almost like Rube Goldberg devices.
With that, the story is one of the few strong female stories I’ve seen in a long time. Our teacher mentioned that many critics cast this off as “Dirty Harry in skirts” and I totally disagree with that statement. I hate the current slate of “female” movies that focus on marriage/finding a boyfriend, and especially feminine competition. In movies today, women can’t be friends without men getting in the way and ruining everything. In Thelma & Louise, the two women never waver in their friendship. Even when the devastatingly gorgeous J.D. shows up (Brad Pitt making a splash in his most iconic role), the two never stop and get all jealous over it.
The chemistry and acting in this movie is amazing. I love Susan Sarandon but she was dominating in this movie, mostly because she’s the only character who tries her hardest to stay in control of the situation. When Thelma falls apart (and it happens often in the first half of the movie) Louise always says “I’ll figure it out” and dammit if she doesn’t. Davis makes a transformation in this movie. I originally HATED Thelma during the first half. She personified everything I hate about female characters in movies. She was whiny and constantly relied on flopping on her back and crying. That all changes around the hour mark of the movie and she figures out how to hold her own. Some may call that reactionary but I thought it did a stellar job of emphasizing her newfound independence.
If anything this movie labels all men as scumbags. Sure there’s Louise’s boyfriend Jimmy (Michael Madsen) who isn’t a jerk but even then he gets violent during an argument with Louise. The majority of the men seen are either rapists/scumbags, conmen, or ineffectual. Harvey Keitel as the cop Hal is the only one who is a decent man. He doesn’t want the women hurt and truly believes their innocent, but again he’s ineffective in that he never has control of the situation and just seems to have no clout which I’m sure was the film’s intentions.
Most everyone knows how the movie ends whether you’ve seen it or not but it’s a seminal piece of film for women in entertainment and a fun time!
Kristen Lopez View All
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.
Kristen, I agree with you about THELMA AND LOUISE, which also happened to be one of my dear late mom’s favorite movies! Your blog post was truly an entertaining, thoughtful read. I enjoyed your pleasant, upbeat writing style. Terrific post — good luck with your midterms! 🙂
Thanks so much (for the read and the luck). It was definitely a far better film than I had expected!
I loved this movie.. both, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, gave wonderful performances, in this road trip from hell. It starts out with Thelma, being the shy one, with Louise being the strong one..but, in the second part of the movie, their roles are reversed.
I definitely loved the role reversal, especially since I hated Davis in the beginning. Thanks for reading!
Thanks the linking in your article!