“I’ve always believed that, done properly, armed robbery doesn’t have to be a totally unpleasant experience.”
You would think that Thelma And Louise would have been a blockbuster film. It’s certainly become entrenched in our pop culture. The famous ending has been spoofed to death in other films and television shows, including the latest Star Trek, if you can believe that. You would think, but you’d be completely wrong. This was one of the movies that got a ton of critical attention and even some Academy Award attention. Ridley Scott, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon all got nominated for statues. The film ended up only taking one for the screenplay. Silence Of The Lambs took the actress and director Oscars that year. The film only pulled in $45 million, hardly a blockbuster but more than enough to cover the $17 million budget. The truth is that 28 films finished with better numbers in 1991, but few of them still have the enduring fame that Thelma And Louise has in 2010.
You know the story by now, don’t you? Thelma (Davis) is suffering through a bad marriage to Darryl (McDonald). Louise (Sarandon) is a waitress who’s been going out with Jimmy (Madsen) who can’t seem to decide if he’s willing to make a commitment or not. They decide that the answer to their rut is to take a ladies’ weekend and go to a cabin in the mountains and fish. Okay, maybe they’re not completely exited about the fishing part. They pack everything but the kitchen sink, including a gun for psycho-killers, bears and snakes. On the way they stop at a honky-tonk bar to let their hair down a bit. They have a few drinks and dance with some guys. One of them gets a bit carried away and tries to rape Thelma. He ends up shot by Louise, and suddenly the girls are on the run from the law. Along the way they pick up hitchhiker JD (Pitt) because Thelma finds him cute. That turns out to be a predictably bad idea in more ways than one. Finally, with no money and nothing to lose they engage in a crime spree on their way to the Mexican border. Of course, Louise has some emotional baggage with Texas so they’re going to have to take the long way around. Meanwhile Detective Hal (Keitel) is on their trail. His investigation causes him to become sympathetic with the running ladies, but he can’t stop the escalation that sends this woman-hunt literally over the edge.
Unless you’ve only recently been rescued from Gilligan’s Island, you already know how the movie ends. Hell, even then you probably heard about it on your bamboo-and-coconut television set. It’s impossible to watch the movie quite the way that Ridley Scott intended for you to watch it. That time has passed. But I’d argue that doesn’t really take away from the experience. Like all good road movies, it’s the journey not the destination that gives this movie its entertainment value. While the ending might be confused as a downer, it isn’t. This movie never really operates in the doldrums. There is more than a little humor going on. The circumstances often border on the outrageous, even throwing in some classic Smokey And The Bandit-style cop car antics. That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t take itself very seriously at times. There’s nothing silly or funny in an attempted rape, and Scott doesn’t make light of that fact, either. It’s the aftermath that can sometimes be light and entertaining. The movie knows how to play on the emotional beats, taking you on a predetermined ride through the wilds of the Southwest.
Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon share the kind of chemistry that is essential to keep this movie even remotely interesting. As good a director as Scott has proven himself to be, there’s nothing he could have done if the relationship wasn’t selling. At first these girls are quite ordinary friends. You’d expect that they would meet at the grocery store or local beauty salon to talk gossip and whine about their men. They aren’t the kind to go on a crime spree. That relationship has to evolve, and the actresses do a fine job of allowing that evolution to take place. Too quickly and we’ll dismiss it. If it takes too long, we’re going to lose patience. I’d say they got it just right. And try to remember they accomplished that without the convenience of playing out in chronological order. Brad Pitt has a pretty small but crucial part in the film. I think I like him better here before he became somewhat of a sex symbol and marquee name. He’s light on his feet and more playful than I’ve seen him at any time since. This is the kind of character we wish he’d played in the Ocean films. It’s often true that actors like this can be so much better when they are still hungry and the attention isn’t always on them. Harvey Keitel is always good. Here he can be the tough-as-nails cop who eventually begins to understand his quarry. It’s a good supporting cast, but make no mistake, Davis and Sarandon carry all of the weight. At least they have a rather attractive green Thunderbird convertible to help get that weight around.
Thelma And Louise is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 30-35 mbps. I’m one of the handful on the planet who has not seen the film before, so I can’t compare the image to the original box office experience, but I’d bet a good deal of money that it lives up to it quite well. Colors are natural here, but the picture tends to be a bit soft for the most part. There’s a ton of exterior road material here, and in sunny or rainy conditions you’ll find a sharp image that reveals details that I’m sure earlier releases could not have revealed. There is a night scene where the girls are driving an isolated New Mexico road, and the contrast and sharpness is stunning. The beautiful mesas and rock formations make for a breathtaking scene. Black levels aren’t great, but during moments like this they are good enough.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is probably just as faithful to the original experience. There is a wonderful collection of songs here that provide a ton of the score for the film. They come across as good as any CD could create today. The rest of the score is provided by Hans Zimmer, a Ridley Scott favorite. His twang guitar licks remind me of something Mark Knopfler would have come up with. The presence is clean and dynamic. The dialog always comes through with brilliant clarity.
There are two Audio Commentaries. Scott, as is ever the case in his commentary tracks, is a fascinating speaker, and not only gives us lots of insights into the making of the film, but also situates the picture in the broader context of his career. The other commentary is by Sarandon, Davis and writer Callie Khouri, and is a lengthy, scene-specific reminiscence of the shoot. Their reactions are interesting, as the film still seems fresh for them.
Unfortunately, it’s all in standard definition.
Thelma And Louise – The Last Journey: (59:32) This feature is ported from the DVD release. Covered is everything from the genesis of the movie to the reactions that greeted its release. The tone maybe a little on the self-congratulatory side, but the feature is still interesting.
Original Theatrical Featurette: (5:23) There’s an optional promo narration that sounds like trailer stuff. It’s a very quick look at the production with a lot of time spent on the truck explosion.
Deleted And Extended Scenes: (40:19) Mostly extended material.
Extended Ending: (3:42) You get an optional Ridley Scott commentary here. In this version of the ending you see the car go all the way to the bottom. Plus you get Hal’s reaction to it all when it’s over.
Multi-Angle Storyboard: The final chase is covered in storyboards.
Music Video: (4:28) Glenn Fry singing Part Of You, Part Of Me.
Trailers And Television Spots
This is one of those movies I call bucket films. It’s the kind of movie you’ve got to see at least once. It’s so much a part of our pop culture that you’re truly missing out by missing out. This Blu-ray version represents a perfect opportunity to add the film to your collection at a reasonable price and in pretty good condition. It’s great for a rainy night in with some friends and a huge bucket of microwave popcorn. Put your stocking feet up and turn off the phone after a long working week. Just have fun. Come on, “You know how Fridays are.”