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Thelma & Louise(1991)
Thelma and Louise are accidental outlaws on a desperate flight across the Southwest after a tragic incident at a roadside bar. With a determined detective on their trail, a sweet-talking hitchhiker in their path and a string of crimes in their wake, a high-speed thrill ride and empowering personal odyssey follows even as the law closes in.
For more about Thelma & Louise and the Thelma & Louise Blu-ray release, see Thelma & Louise Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on February 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Brad Pitt, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald
Director: Ridley Scott
» See full cast & crew
Thelma & Louise Blu-ray Review
Girls on the run!
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, February 8, 2011
The dynamic duos in road movies—think Bonnie & Clyde, Holly and Kit in Badlands, or Sailor and Lula in Wild at Heart—are always running away from something, and I don't just mean the cops. In 1991's Thelma & Louise, an exclusively female film in a genre where women are usually just along for the ride, the two protagonists are fleeing their small town, male-dominated lives. Upon its release, the movie was widely hailed as the first meaningful feminist road film, taking typically masculine motifs—guns and convertibles, the allure of the open highway—and repurposing them for a story about female retribution and expression. (An alternate reading is that Thelma and Louise have simply been "masculinized," but that's a theme for another essay.) What often gets overlooked amid all the critical girl-power talk, however, is just how energetic and fun—and funny—the film is from a purely entertainment perspective. Twenty years on, it's still a pedal-to-the-metal hoot, thanks largely to the captivating performances of its two leads, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon.
They both play "kept" women, in some sense. Davis is Thelma, longsuffering wife to an overbearing carpet-salesman husband (a hilarious Christopher McDonald), and Sarandon is Louise, who may not be married, but is certainly tied down to her gig as a waitress in a greasy-spoon diner. Trapped early into small town life, they're both women who've never had the opportunity—or inclination—to truly find themselves. In the grand tradition of stories where an exterior travelogue mirrors the characters' inner journeys to self-actualization, Thelma and Louise set off in a '66 T-Bird for a spur-of-the-moment weekend jaunt up into the mountains. They're giddy with excitement—they never do this kind of thing—and you get the sense that they're looking forward to getting into a little harmless trouble. Of course, it'll be anything but harmless. Thelma brings along a pistol for safety, and as we all know, if you see a gun in the first act, it's a certainty that it's going to get fired eventually. Here, it happens sooner than you'd think. When a quick pit-stop at a roadside bar turns into a marathon drink 'n' dance session, Thelma gets flirty with Harlan (Timothy Carhard), a smooth cowboy whose charms belie lascivious intentions. One thing leads to another, which leads to Harlan attempting to rape Thelma in the parking lot, where Louise stops him with a bullet to the chest…in cold blood, after he's already resisted. From girls on the road to killers on the run, they flee the scene and head toward Mexico, convinced the cops will never buy their claims of self-defense.
The Oscar-winning screenplay by first-timer Callie Khouri doesn't exactly condone Louise's sudden act of violence, but it does drop hints about some dark secret in her past that informs her wary-of-men behavior and attitudes. Might she have murdered some would-be rapist in self-defense before? Could that explain why she's dead set on not driving through Texas on their way to Mexico? We never find out for sure, but it doesn't really matter. From this point on, the film becomes a fatalistic surge forward as Thelma and Louise barrel down stretches of highway that are nearly deserted, save for the bizarre characters—all of them men—they encounter along the way. There's the lewd long-haul trucker who learns a literally explosive lesson about keeping his rude gestures to himself, and the hard-ass, Nazi-looking state trooper who turns into a whimpering baby when faced with the business end of Thelma's pistol. Most memorably, the two cross paths with an extremely young Brad Pitt—in his first substantial Hollywood role—as J.D., an itinerant robber who gives Thelma lessons in sexual pleasure and the polite way to conduct a stick-up. (It's here that Pitt, bare- chested, wearing a cowboy hat, and speaking in a laconic southern drawl, first seared himself into the public consciousness, both as a sex symbol and a capable actor.) Michael Madsen makes a brief turn as Louise's on-and-off boyfriend Jimmy, and the always-welcome Harvey Keitel also shows up as Detective Hal Slocumb, a good cop intent on making sure the FBI bring the two women in safely.
Considering how Thelma and Louise's criminal actions escalate, their survival is definitely called into question, which gives a sense of desperate urgency to this breakneck road trip. What makes the film, however, is seeing the arc the characters make from boring hometown girls to women who embrace a dangerously uninhibited freedom. Even with ten cop cars in pursuit and the Grand Canyon looming inescapably ahead, these characters are more alive than they've ever been, simply because they're autonomous—they alone get to determine their fate. Davis and Sarandon both give career-defining performances. Davis' Thelma goes from ditzy and subservient—a woman who's never been with anyone but her deadbeat husband—to precariously, breathlessly self-assured, holding up convenience stores, pulling guns on cops, and letting herself be seduced by handsome strangers. The look on her face when she joins Louise for breakfast after a night with J.D. is priceless. ("You finally got laid properly," says Louise. "I'm so proud!") Sarandon's transition as Louise is just as drastic, from buttoned up and uptight at the beginning of the film, to chucking her lipstick out the window and letting her hair down. (You can literally chart her psychological progression through her hair; at the outset it's pinned in a tight bun and by the end it's a loose, frizzy, sun-dried mane.) Together, they have more chemistry than the laboratory at a pharmaceutical firm. Credit for the film's success also has to be given to director Ridley Scott, who took a break from moody sci-fi/fantasy epics like Alien, Blade Runner, and Legend to make a distinctly American, character-driven road movie that takes its visual cues from predecessors like Badlands and The Sugarland Express.
Thelma & Louise Blu-ray, Video Quality
MGM's recent catalog releases have all looked wonderful, and Thelma & Louise is no exception, coasting onto Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that displays refined clarity and vivid color. The print itself is in near-perfect condition—I only spotted a few blink-and-you-miss-them white specks throughout—and the film's grain structure is unobtrusive and un-tampered-with, showing no signs of excessive DNR, edge enhancement, contrast boosting, or any other forms of digital tweaking. There are sporadic soft shots, as you might expect in any film, but the increase in resolution will be immediately appreciable to anyone who owns the Thelma & Louise DVD. Fine detail is easily visible where you look for it most—the textures of the actors' faces, clothing, the surfaces of in-focus props—and outlines are crisp without looking overly edgy. Set in the southwest, you can expect an abundance of dusty earth-tones laid out underneath a creamy blue sky. Black levels could possibly be a hair deeper—they skew towards grayish in some of the darker scenes—but color is dense, contrast is spot-on, and shadow delineation never proves to be a problem. You'd also have to be an eagle-eyed perfectionist to spot any compression artifacts. I really didn't see anything worth mentioning. Overall, if you enjoy the film, you'll definitely find the visual boost in clarity from the DVD to be worth the upgrade.
Thelma & Louise Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is an improvement as well, although not nearly as drastic as the picture quality. Generally, when compared to the DVD, the sound is incrementally cleaner and brighter, with a more robust dynamic range. The surround speakers are most often used to envelope us in Hans Zimmer's bluesy, pleasingly uncharacteristic score—there are no pounding timpani drums here—although you'll also hear some quietly immersive ambience from time to time, like barroom chatter. While Thelma & Louise has its occasional moments of aural action— gunshots ping through the rears, a tanker trunk explodes, cars zip between channels, a helicopter buzzes over our heads, etc.—there's nothing that rises to the level of a true showpiece audio moment. And that's okay. Dialogue is the focus here, and it's always clear and comprehensible, with no muffling or clipping. Subtitles are available in a variety of languages.
Thelma & Louise Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no new materials here, unfortunately—I'd love some kind of 20-years-later retrospective—but Thelma & Louise's Blu-ray debut includes all the best content from its DVD release, including a comprehensive, one-hour making-of documentary and two audio commentaries.
Thelma & Louise Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rooted in the long tradition of road movies but taking on a lightly feminist bent, Thelma and Louise is a classic from the early '90s that has aged surprisingly well. Fans will be glad to hear that the film has held up visually too, with a high definition transfer from MGM that's simply gorgeous, especially whenever director Ridley Scott turns his lens toward the iconic scenery of the American southwest. Recommended!
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Thelma & Louise Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Thelma and Louise Blu-ray Detailed - January 7, 2011
MGM Home Entertainment, in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, has revealed the release details for the 20th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of Thelma & Louise. As previously reported, this award-winning road movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring ...
• Blu-ray Catalog Wave from MGM in February - December 21, 2010
An early announcement to retailers indicates that in February 2011, MGM Home Entertainment, in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, will release four Oscar-winning or nominated catalog movies. On February 8, it will release Thelma & Louise (20th ...
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