Friday, August 26, 2016

Thelma & Louise - 25 years never looked better

Being that today is Women's Equality Day, today is the perfect day to share my thoughts after watching a Fathom Events screening of Thelma & Louise, two nights ago. This year marks the 25th anniversary of a film that can certainly be considered a classic.

You're probably familiar with the story: Meek housewife Thelma (Geena Davis) joins her friend Louise (Susan Sarandon), an independent waitress, on a short fishing trip. However, their trip becomes a flight from the law when Louise shoots and kills a man who tries to rape Thelma at a bar. Louise decides to flee to Mexico, and Thelma joins her. On the way, Thelma falls for sexy young thief J.D. (Brad Pitt) and the sympathetic Detective Slocumb (Harvey Keitel) tries to convince the two women to surrender before their fates are sealed.

If you have only ever read the synopsis or heard someone tell the plot, Thelma and Louise appears to to be dark, disturbing, and tragic. Without a doubt, it is all these things. Due to Ridley Scott's fine direction, the film is also vibrant and funny, filled with characters that jump off the screen. Whether it is a truly feminist statement, or an armed and violent perversion of feminist ideology - it is left to the eye of the beholder to decide.

Road pictures were nothing new in 1991 when this film debuted. However, it was less common to see it with two female leads who inadvertently become outlaws on the run. In the 70s, we saw films like Smokey and the Bandit, Easy Rider and Mad Max. The 80s brought us Midnight Run and Cannonball Run (we weren't much for original titles that decade). The 90s brought us into a more violent road films, including Reservoir Dogs and Natural Born Killers. But before those two films, came this one, Thelma and Louise. Women take the reins in this movie. From the get go, the film’s attitude toward male oppression and the appropriate female response is complicated and difficult to break down into a simple blog post. The protagonists have both been affected by male violence in one way or another and their decision to deliver retribution in kind ultimately leads to their untimely demise, in a moment that has become an iconic moment in cinema history.

This film had Sarandon and Davis both at their prime and both were nominated for Academy Awards for their portrayals. The only Oscar for the film went to the fine screenplay by Callie Khouri.

One striking aspect of the film was Keitel's Detective Slocumb. I have been so used to seeing Keitel play scummy characters like in Taxi Driver or smooth talkers like in Pulp Fiction, Slocumb is a character opposite of what has come to be typecasting for Keitel. While some of his tactics are typical for trying to negotiate with outlaws, he is able to add a level of sincerity in his expression of acknowledging that these two women fell into the this accidental situation and are merely now trying to find a way out of it.

This is also one of those films that really is best viewed on a large screen. The landscapes across Utah are massive, juxtaposed with Thelma and Louise and a 66 Ford Thunderbird trying to get to the southern border. Only a large screen really does this film the justice it deserves. You are immersed into the story and the plight of sheltered Thelma and life-worn Louise. I'm grateful Fathom Events chose to screen this movie for the 25th anniversary and that I was able to attend.

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