21 years after the release of Thelma & Louise, it’s rather sad that women’s position in film, both in front of and behind the camera, hasn’t changed all that much. When it first appeared in cinemas, the film was treated like it was going to be a new dawn for women in the movies, but little has changed.
In fact, other than the great movie itself, Thelma & Louise’s most lasting legacy is Brad Pitt, who might never have hit the big time if he hadn’t gotten the chance to be unfeasibly hot and sexy in this (he very nearly didn’t, as William Baldwin initially landed the role, but dropped out after he was cast in Backdraft). Thank God he did get the role, as few people have ever been so breathtakingly sexy in what is actually a very small role.
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis are great as the title characters, who are fed up with their lives and decide to take off on a trip to a friend’s rural cabin for the weekend. What starts out as a bit of fun and a touch of liberation from Louise’s humdrum life and Thelma’s controlling husband takes a dramatic turn when a man in a rowdy bar attacks and tries to rape Thelma. Louise responds by shooting him dead.
The girls go on the run, which takes them on a trip across the deserts of southwest America as they head for Mexico, with Harvey Keitel’s policeman chasing them. As the situation gets ever more extreme – and following a run-in with Brad Pitt’s dashing small-time hood, JD – the girls become full-on outlaws.
It’s a wonderful movie. Although there’s been debate over whether it’s empowering to women or if there can’t really be much that’s empowering about becoming criminals on the run to Mexico, that’s almost beside the point. It’s a film about women taking control over their own lives and destinies, whether for good or bad, and also a celebration of friendship. With fantastic performances all round, the film brilliantly creates a situation where you may not always agree with the women’s action, but you still empathise with them strongly.
However you probably know all that, as few people who call themselves film fans won’t have seen Thelma & Louise. It’s one of the best films of the 90s and arguably Ridley Scott’s best movie – it may not be as flashy as Alien or Blade Runner, but in terms of pure cinema, it’s quite possibly the best thing he’s ever done.
Thankfully Ridley is pretty hands-on when it comes to HD conversions of his movies and so you can be pretty certain you won’t get anything substandard if it’s one of his movies. That’s certainly true here. The transfer is superb, really bringing out the sun-baked colour palette and bleak yet beautiful vistas of the desert. You may not think picture quality would make much difference to Thelma & Louise, but on a large screen, Blu-ray really does give the movie a greater sense of scale, with the contrast between the huge, empty wilderness and the personal drama of the women become even clearer.
The special features from the two-disc DVD release have been ported over to this Blu-ray, with the great ‘Last Journey’ documentary being a fascinating retrospective look at a movie whose success took everyone by surprise. Pretty much everyone involved in the film came back to be interviewed about the movie, ensuring it’s a great watch. While everything’s worth a peak, the extended/alternate ending is particularly worth watching – especially for film students – as it’s a great example of how editing can be the difference between a classic, memorable film moment, and something that could throw off an entire movie.
Many have noted a lesbian subtext to the film, and it’s there are much as you want to see it. Personally I’ve always felt that the bond between Thelma & Louise was about the love of friendship and the bonds that tie people together beyond sex. However the idea of underlying lesbian themes isn’t made up out of whole cloth, underlined by the famed kiss on the lips towards the movie’s end. It’s probably more that films about deep female friendship are rare, and so the assumption becomes there must be something lesbian going on. If they were men it would be a ‘bromance’ but there’s no real equivalent for women at the moment.
With a very reasonable RRP, it’s well worth grabbing a copy of this release, as it’s a great film that’s been given a strong HD transfer.
Overall Verdict: Just as entertaining & relevant as it was 21 years ago, Thelma & Louise has been given a great HD transfer, ensuring it’s a bit of a must have.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac