Thelma and Louise Critique

Over spring break I watched Thelma and Louise, a 1991 road trip film directed by Ridley Scott. In 2016, Thelma and Louise was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The film centers around two friends, the put-together waitress Louise and the submissive housewife Thelma, who embark on a weekend road trip vacation. Things immediately go south when they make a pit stop at a bar — a man rapes Thelma, and Louise shoots and kills him. Shocked and afraid, Thelma and Louise flee the scene and spend the rest of their “vacation” evading the police and committing more criminal acts as they drive across the desert in an attempt to escape to Mexico. While on the road, they manage to overcome a series of obstacles — namely, men — before being cornered by the police at the edge of the canyon. Deciding that they have nothing left to lose, Thelma and Louise drive their car off the cliff and plummet to their deaths. This film is action-packed, funny and emotional from start to finish. I would highly recommend this film — especially for a girls’ night!

Thelma and Louise are strong foils for each other; the choices Scott made to emphasize this only further develop their characters. For example, the packing montage at the beginning of the film highlights some differences between Thelma and Louise. Louise, who lives alone, packs very methodically, folding her clothes and placing them into plastic bags to keep them organized. She even washes the single cup in her sink before locking up the house. Thelma, on the other hand, throws her clothes haphazardly into her multiple bags, and brings unnecessary items like a fishing pole and a handgun. Before she leaves the house, she makes sure to set out a microwavable dinner for her husband, Daryl. Louise can take care of herself, whereas Thelma is less able to do so. This theme continues throughout the film, with Thelma repeatedly playing the damsel-in-distress role (she is raped by Harlan and stolen from by JD), and Louise bailing her out. However, toward the end of the film, Thelma becomes the caretaker. Louise is distraught after JD steals their money, so Thelma robs the grocery store to provide for them. This shows some character development — Louise, who is used to being in charge, learns to be vulnerable, while Thelma becomes more self-sufficient.

While Thelma and Louise’s story sounds almost too wild to be believable, the acting and direction makes their situation believable. The world that the actors and Scott create demands that these women fight rather than flee. Though they are initially unprepared to handle their situation, over the course of the film they toughen up. The audience sees Thelma and Louise slowly build up thicker skins and become hard; which is why, at the end of the film, they choose to die free rather than be taken to jail. As an audience member, you initially think “I could never do that,” and at the beginning of the film, neither could Thelma or Louise. But as their situation darkens, it makes sense that their characters darken as well. Thelma and Louise is as dramatic as it is fun, and I would definitely recommend this film.


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