THE 28: #19, THELMA & LOUISE
Susan Sarandon: Louise
Geena Davis: Thelma
Harvey Keitel: Hal
Michael Madsen: Jimmy
Christopher McDonald: Darryl
Brad Pitt: J.D.
Screenplay by Callie Khouri
Directed by Ridley Scott
I watched THELMA & LOUISE last April for the first time in years. Just a few months later the #metoo movement would explode and women would share their stories of harrassment, abuse, assault, and general mistreatment at the hands of men. The film, released in 1991, not only holds up, but shook me in its relevancy. We may have made progress in the last 27 years since these two ladies first took to the road for girls weekend, but recent events have shown us we still have far to go.
THELMA & LOUISE belongs to that voluminous film genre, the road picture. What separated then was that the two characters hitting the open road were both women. Thelma (Geena Davis) is a housewife married to a wannabe alpha male named Darryl, the district sales manager for a rug company. He shows little to no regard or affection for Thelma. Her purpose is to maintain a clean home and perform other wifely duties. Louise (Susan Sarandon) is a waitress involved with a musician with no sights on commitment to her or anything else. He doesn't seem like a bad guy, so much as an aimless one. Both women know they need and deserve more in life, so they decide to hit the road for a weekend. Thelma can't even talk to her husband about the trip. She simply leaves him a note.
They stop off at a honky-tonk for some dancing. A cowboy decides he wants to do more than dance with Thelma and attempts to rape her in the parking lot. Louise shoots and kills her assailant and now they really must hit the road. They get some money wired to them and set out for Mexico. Along the way, they encounter more trouble, make more trouble of their own, and unleash a lifetime of pent up frustration and anger. Thelma and Louise briefly think of going back, turning themselves in. To what end? They don't think anyone would believe their story. Thelma was a little drunk and she and the cowboy were flirting.
Now, does that sound familiar at all? The reason women today state they don't speak up about harassment, assault, and other misogyny because they still worry no one will believe them. To bring up an event from the past is risk even more questions about waiting so long. I read commentary from folks who steadfastly believe they know exactly what they'd do in that situation. Men, especially, seem to have a lot to say about how women should handle themselves. I think women are trying to tell us men that we need to listen for a change.
Perhaps you read that as a needless digression or an imposition of irrelevant current events and politics into a movie. I would suggest perhaps you need to watch THELMA & LOUISE again. The reason it remains a classic is its timelessness. It still has something to say to use about the struggles of women and gender dynamics. This is a both a testament to quality of the movie and an indictment of just how little we've progressed.