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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Women with Guns
by Robert Ford

Thelma & Louise caused quite a stir when it was released in 1991. The controversy was about what many perceived to be the filmís male-bashing agenda. The debate made such an impact at the time that lead actresses Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis even made the cover of Time magazine, a spot usually reserved for the likes of world leaders and scientific geniuses.

The film is about two women who seek a little escapism from their humdrum lives, but get a whole lot more than they bargained for. Best friends Thelma (Davis) and Louise (Sarandon) decide to get away together for a weekend of fun. Thelma wants to escape her emotionally abusive husband and Louise needs a break from her crummy job as a waitress in a diner. But the good times are cut short by tragedy when a man tries to rape Thelma, and Louise ends up shooting him dead. In a panic, the girls flee from the scene. As their situation gets more and more out of control, they embark on a cross-country crime spree with the police and FBI hot on their trail.

At Thelma & Louiseís Cannes premiere, the usually sedate crowd actually stood up and cheered in the scene where Louise shoots the rapist. Some claim that the film is feminist propaganda -- that its female characters take revenge not only on the rapist but on men in general. But the argument that Thelma & Louise is an unbalanced example of male-bashing does not really hold water. The heroines may be female and the agenda may be female empowerment, but the film is not completely anti-male. Men are both positively and negatively portrayed in the film. After all, how man-hating can it really be when the director, Ridley Scott, is himself a man?

A more valid criticism of the filmís moral stance would be that it glamourises crime. In a typical scene our beautiful heroines whoop with excitement after holding up a convenience store. Their hair streams gorgeously in the wind as they speed away in a convertible. Armed robbery never looked so enticing! The film tells us that going off the rails like this is the only way they could escape the tedium of their unfulfilling lives. Natural Born Killers offers the same excuse for a life of crime -- they were so bored out of their minds that they just couldnít help themselves.

A film this provocative is always going to cause strongly opposing opinions. But because of all the big issues it raises, itís easy to forget that Thelma & Louise is essentially a very funny and entertaining buddy comedy. Itís a great example of how the filmmaking elements -- writing, direction and performance -- can complement each other so perfectly that every scene comes alive with warmth and energy. Sarandon and Davis have such a spontaneous, easy chemistry that you really believe theyíre best friends. Their characters are fully-formed, and they grow and develop beautifully during the course of the film. Callie Khouriís Oscar-winning screenplay really is a gem.

And then of course there is that final scene, now considered one of the great movie endings. Itís daring and audacious, totally unlike conventional Hollywood endings. Itís a shocking way to end the film, but somehow it just works -- no other ending would have felt quite so right.

(Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and rated "R" for strong language and for some violence and sensuality.)

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