Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Girl Week 2020: Thelma & Louise

Welcome to Day 2 of Girl Week 2020.

Directed by Ridley Scott.
1991. Rated R, 129 minutes.
Cast: Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Harvey Keitel, Brad Pitt, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald, Stephen Tobolowski, Timothy Carhart, Lucinda Jenney.

    A couple years ago I put Thelma & Louise on my annual Blind Spot list meaning I was finally going to watch it after all this time. Then I didn't. We cinephiles always feel a little shame about movies we haven't seen that everyone else seems to have watched. I have a bit extra when it comes to this film. I've owned a copy of this for at least three or four years. At any time, I could've taken a few steps, pulled it off the shelf, and watched it. I just didn't. Like most of you, I found myself at home a lot more than usual for large chunks of time. Thanks, pandemic. Since my kids are grown and Mrs. Dell was still working outside the home I had no one to entertain but me. That meant lots of days watching movies. On one of those days it dawned on me that I still hadn't seen Thelma & Louise, so I took a few steps, pulled it off the shelf and watched it.

    Right off the bat, I was surprised. This had nothing to do with actual content, just who was playing who. Geena Davis plays Thelma and Susan Sarandon plays Louise. Somehow, I got it in my head that it was the other way around. It mostly has to do with Sarandon. Maybe because I've seen Sarandon in more down to Earth roles, but she struck me as more fitting of a Thelma. It's neither here, nor there, just thought I'd share. Anyhoo, the actual Thelma, Davis is dealing with Darryl (McDonald), her borderline psycho husband. Louise is kinda sorta dating laid back musician Jimmy (Madsen). They decide they need to unwind and decide to take a girl's trip for a weekend of fishing. On the way to their destination, they stop at a bar for a little drinkin' and dancin'. One thing leads to another and the girls find themselves on the run after committing a murder.

    What makes this movie go is the chemistry between its two leads. From the very first frame, Thelma and Louise feel like they've been best friends forever. It's easy to take this for granted because the story is built around that very fact. It's one thing for the story to just tell us this. Lots of stories do this. Good ones show us things that develop the relationship or help establish the idea that they're lifelong buddies. However, it takes a special connection to make either approach unnecessary. Sure, it uses those techniques, but it doesn't really have to. Davis and Sarandon make us feel their bond instantaneously. This bonds them to us as viewers. Our emotional connection to them keeps us engaged. 

    The performances of Davis and Sarandon are equally dynamic. The two ladies use them, along with excellent writing, to pull off one of the damndest tricks I've ever seen. They gradually switch roles throughout the course of the film. I don't mean in a Freaky Friday, body switch type of way. At the beginning of the film Thelma is the more buttoned up of the two, only loosening up with a drink in her hand. Louise is the free spirit constantly urging Thelma to open up. As things progress, the two practically swap personalities, and it never feels forced. We may not even notice it happening until the change is complete. The film never calls attention to it. It just does it, and we believe it. This, along with all the two go through together, make the movie's iconic ending work. We're in it with them, and wouldn't have it any other way.

    Other performances also aid in our enjoyment. The one people routinely point to is the full-on "himbo" turn by a relatively unknown Brad Pitt. He is definitely good. His skill as an actor come second to his pure, undeniable magnetism. I get it. Sex sells. It's what has kept people talking about Pitt's turn nearly thirty years after the film's release. However, the man candy who delivered the better performance and appeared in the more compelling scenes is actually Michael Madsen. While Pitt's scenes are predicated on a superficial sexiness, there is a smoldering between Madsen and Sarandon that adds extra sizzle. 

    Whether you side with Pitt or Madsen as the greater distraction for our heroines matters not. What matters is that the writing never loses focus on the physical and emotional journeys of Thelma and Louise. It continuously draws us in, makes us fall in love with them as individuals, and fall in love with their friendship. Everything else is a delicious extra.

Check out yesterday's entries in Girl Week 2020.

A Film a Day by Sonia

Dell on Movies


  1. I wish I could say I loved this as much as some people seem to but I merely thought it was okay. The main pair are dynamic and I agree their chemistry is the kind that is more of a happy accident of alchemy than something that can be manufactured. I like that they are true blue friends no matter the predicaments they find themselves in but many of those said predicaments are foolish, including their final one, and of their own making I had trouble caring.

    It's been so long since I watched it I have trouble remembering much about Madsen but I do remember Brad Pitt coming across like sex on a stick. It certainly broke him out of the pack and moved him forward like a bullet. I think it came along at just the right time for him. I've seen some of his work previous to this-lots of TV series one-off small roles and low budget junk movies like Cutting Class and while he was attractive he seemed blandly unformed and unfocused. But in this even though his role was small he registers with a POW shot of star quality and magnetism. He was in his mid-20's at that point so I guess he had to mature into his persona.

    Glad you enjoyed this more than I did. As I said its been a long time perhaps next time its on I'll give it another look, maybe my feelings about it will be different this time.

    1. I get it. They do make a lot of their own problems. However, I fully understand how/why they created the original problem and I just rolled with them from their.

      As far as Pitt goes, no doubt he came across that way, but there wasn't much else to him and it was all projection. There seemed to be genuine attraction, lust even, between Madsen and Sarandon.

  2. I'm sorry but this film didn't click with me at all. I just couldn't get into it.

  3. I still haven't seen Thelma and Louise which seems like such a massive oversight. Someday.

  4. I am going to catch up here and m reading your whole weeks’ worth. I agree with Joel on what he says, so much more eloquently than I can. I was looking forward to seeing this but I really didn’t like the characters and found the Geena Davis character stupid. I don’t feel female empowerment to blow up a man’s truck even though he was an a-hole. I wasn’t even into Brad Pitt because he seemed too pretty for my taste. Don’t get me started on the ending which is one of the dumbest endings ever.

    1. That ending, yeah, I get it. I also get why you would feel that way about the characters. The storytelling worked better for me. Thanks for checking out what everyone's doing.