Thelma and Louise is grade A propaganda of the first order, sort of a female version of the Melvin Peebles Blaxploitation epic Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song with a little Easy Rider tossed in for good measure. In this case The Man is the majority of the male race.
It’s really a wonder that women have had such a hard time redefining heroic male roles for themselves. Renny Harlin came away from this movie convinced that his wife Geena Davis could be the first legitimate female action star. Cutthroat Island and a divorce later and he’s probably not so sure anymore. Besides anyone who actually watched this movie should have known that Susan Sarandon would have been the better choice, since this could have been easily entitled Louise and her moron friend Thelma.
Davis’ Thelma is an Arkansas housewife married to Darryl (Christopher MacDonald) perhaps the biggest jerk in the history of modern cinema. He so bad that when he answers the phone in a friendly manner his wife is accurately convinced that their phone is tapped by the police. She decides to go on a little two day jaunt with waitress friend and green vintage T-bird convertible owner (nobody in road movies ever drives a Toyota hatchback) Louise Sawyer (Sarandon). Unfortunately their stop off at a cowboy bar proves disastrous when Thelma nearly gets raped by a local fast talking creep. Louise stops the proceedings and because she has a few issues of her own winds up blowing the guy away for not being apologetic enough. It was 1992 and we were just beginning to understand the true nature of the Arkansas man through our newly elected President Bill Clinton. We are told many times that something horrible happened to Louise in Texas, so she doesn’t feel comfortable turning herself in and sets out to run from Oklahoma to Mexico without breaching the Lone Star State. Thelma has nothing else going for her so she winds up along for the ride.
Are all men or at least all men in Arkansas evil sadistic losers? Maybe, but I still say that women have to own up to the fact that they encourage these things by rewarding bad behavior. What half way respectable man hasn’t been ditched in favor of a jerk at least ten times? Louise’s man is actually pretty damn cool if you ask me. Michael Madsen, traveling Elvis man musician, flies across two states with an engagement ring when he sees Louise start to make a run for it with no other explanation. A smart girl would have ditched Geena Davis and gone to Mexico with Madsen.
Brad Pitt makes what is essentially his film debut as JD a polite drifter thief who Thelma drools over for a third of the movie or so. Imagine being so fine that a woman who was nearly raped the night before wants to immediately have sex with you. If I were going to have to make my first impression on the viewing world, I would want to do it in this part. Of course Pitt steals all their money and they are forced to embark on some real crimes to get by and allude the police.
The fun part of the movie is when Thelma and Louise start to bask and revel in their new roles as badass outlaws. They drink, they smoke, they blow up a tanker truck and lock a cop in his trunk. It’s a wonder how real cops can hold their head up in public after almost everyone who ever saw this movie cheered at the rasta biker who blows some ganja smoke through the poor guy’s air holes and leaves him stranded.
Harvey Keitel also plays a pretty decent guy as the cop who figures out exactly what has happened in about thirty seconds and tries to talk the panicked ladies in off the road. It’s seems odd to me that in a movie that is really one loud rebel yell, the protagonist’s fate is decided more from their inability to judge which men to trust than any actual misdeeds by the male race in general. Nevertheless Ridley Scott does a pretty good job of showing how much cooler it is to be an outlaw than a waitress or a harried wife.
The scenically pretty Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid like ending here is almost as famous as Citizen Kane’s and a nice middle finger salute to the perceived harsh realities of our male dominated world. The pacifist in me keeps wondering why they didn’t just turn themselves in and make up a story. The guy had his pants down when he was shot and Harvey Keitel was begging to understand it their way. I guess it’s a women’s thing. Although since then it almost seems like the only ones watching were Hillary Clinton, Sharon Stone, and Alanis Morissette.