Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Thelma and Louise
Starring: Susan Sarandan, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald
By Alan Bacchus
Thelma and Louise, when first released was a big hit, deservedly nominated for several Oscars. After a series of middle-of-the-road but mostly disappointing films post-Blade Runner, T&L was kind of like Ridley Scott’s comeback film. Looking back the film survives well over the past 10 years or so. With today’s eyes it’s better than I had remembered, a passionate feminist road movie, and the best of a rather large batch of similar films from the 1990’s Tarantino-era.
Ridley Scott adapts well to the rural sundrenched southern locales of Oklahoma, finding complete authenticity in the world of Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise Susan Sarandan), two girlfriends who embark on two–day fishing trip away from their husbands. After their first stop at a dingy country bar Louise shoots and kills a drunkard attempting to rape Louise. From there, they are on the road on the run from the police.
There’s a reason this film is discussed so prominently by script gurus like Robert McKee, Callie Khouri’s screenplay is the closest thing to perfection - structurally perfect, like the Parthenon. Khouri hits all the right dramatic beats without having the film feel stale or predictable.
The characterization of the two spry gals makes for supremely engaging banter and conflict even outside of the big picture threats on their lives. Susan Sarandan as the elder gal, with years of emotional baggage behind her, a cynical attitude of men and the police is born from a rich backstory which is never quite made known to us. Louise is expertly drawn as well. Her carefee instincts run counter to Louise’s pessimistic and pragmatic outlook on their stituation.
Supporting characters are terrific, scene stealers popping up periodically in every scene, but who never overshadow the leads. The Brad Pitt role of course is a celebrated introduction to a future movie star. Harvey Keitel’s ‘comeback’ as the sympathetic cop Slocumb trailing the gals plays out as an emotional parallel story unto itself. As Slocumb gets closer to the girls and reconstructs these two characters from his investigation, we can feel the admiration and familial love between these characters who never meet. Christopher MacDonald is hilarious as the affable but cruel domineering husband. More importantly Scott populates his scenes with the most genuine and colourful background players, full of piss, vinegar and good old country charm.
These characters compliment the typically rich and textured visual design from Scott. Thelma and Louise is no exception. Though not overly decorated as in some of his other films, it's stylishly cool without being overbearing.
We saw a rash of these throwback crime spree road movies in the early 90's. Thelma and Louise may just have been an influence into Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance script. Other than the connection of the brothers Scott directing each picture and the casting link-ups with future QT players Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen and Brad Pitt both scripts portray the same kind of passionate melodramatic storytelling and a thorough knowledge of the history of the genre.
After Alien and Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise is undoubtedly Scott next best film and a tier above anything else he’s done.
Thelma and Louise is available on Blu-Ray from Fox/MGM Home Entertainment