A film by Ridley Scott
One thing that I have never understood is that Thelma and Louise has been marked as this huge feminist movie (which happens to be directed by a man) that is taking aim at men and shows them all as pigs. I don t get it. On one hand this is a comedy (a lot of things are funny in this movie). On another hand, Thelma and Louise is a western that has a car instead of a horse, and two women rather than two men. It is a buddy movie, and a road movie. Most importantly, this film is a tragedy (with all that a tragedy entails). I don t want to spoil the ending for anyone who has not yet seen the movie, but considering the journey that these women go on and how it concludes, I don t see how it can be viewed as this feminist male-bashing movie.
Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) need a vacation away from their men. Louise just needs some time away from Jimmy (Michael Madsen) and Thelma is in a fairly miserable marriage where she is emotionally abused by her husband Darryl (Christopher McDonald). Thelma leaves without telling Darryl, which she believes will get her in trouble when she comes back. Thelma and Louise are off to a cabin owned by Louise s boss and they are going to have some fun (and for Thelma, this is a change). On the way to the cabin they stop at a roadside bar to have a couple of drinks and dance. Thelma dances with a guy who seems to be very sweet, but when she gets drunk he helps her outside and tries to rape her. Louise comes out in time to stop the rape, but ends up shooting and killing the man. Rather than go to the police, they go on the run not thinking that the police would believe their version of what happened (many witnesses would have seen Thelma and Harlan dancing cheek to cheek).
This begins what is really the heart of the movie: the women on the run. Some have said that having the two women end up on such a crime spree (from the murder to armed robbery) is glorifying the crimes and celebrating the women, but I disagree. We have to look at why Thelma and Louise did what they did and what happens to them because of those actions. There is no celebration here. Yes, there is release and a sense of freedom for the two women, but there is also resignation. They did their best to get out of a bad situation but they were never able to get their lives back on track and while Thelma is finally having fun , she also says late in the movie that something snapped inside me and I can never go back . This is tragedy.
Men do not come off as poorly in this movie as some critics have said. Yes, Harlan the rapist is a horrible man, and he got his just reward. Thelma is married to a real dirt bag of a man. J.D. (Brad Pitt) is a mixed character. He is smooth and charming, but ends up being a thief. Yet, he is still a likeable and mostly sympathetic character. To move to the other end of the spectrum, Louise s boyfriend Jimmy is an entirely positive male character. So is Hal (Harvey Keitel), the FBI agent who is trying to bring Thelma and Louise in alive and as easily as possible. He is trying to protect these women as well as apprehend them, but even Hal can see things spiraling out of control.
Thelma and Louise is a very good movie made by a talented cast of people. Geena Davis (The Accidental Tourist) and Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) are both Oscar winners, and Ridley Scott is a three time nominee for Best Director (Thelma and Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down). Callie Khouri s screenplay did win the Oscar for this movie, and both Davis and Sarandon were nominated for Best Actress in this film. There is a strong Oscar pedigree here and it shows in the movie. It is a well told story of two women who in their attempt to break free from their lives end up going too far and become fugitives. While there may be a celebratory feel to this movie, I believe that would be a misinterpretation of Thelma and Louise . It is an often comedic tragedy and simply is an excellent movie from start to finish.