The 20th Anniversary release of Thelma and Louise celebrates Brad Pitt's indelible entry into Hollywood and beyond. Script writer Callie Khouri said it best, "Brad is lit from the inside."
The guy always has been more than a pretty face - and more than a chiseled chest, now meticulously detailed in high definition. He is a fine performer. A natural comedian. An eminently engaging actor. And, yes, a great lay for love-starved Thelma.
But the real chemistry in this buddy-film/road-picture/truckstop-western belongs to Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, (Louise and Thelma), who saddle up for the ride of their lives in a sexy 1966 turquoise T-bird convertible.
Thunderbirds, as mythology maintains, are soaring feathered symbols of power and vengeance. But Louise's quiet plans for a ladies-only weekend with house-bound Thelma did not begin that way.
Tucking Thelma under her maternal wing, Louise simply wanted to free her caged friend for a brief respite from her battering controlling husband (Christopher McDonald).
But when Miss Flighty flew the coop, she packed her hubby's pistol, in case of, she laughed, "psycho-killers, bears and snakes." A salient omen.
Together the two blast down the highway, detonating a wake-up call to anyone who touches the turbulence of their wake. Snooze or lose.
Louise is the engine of change. The shake-up artist commandeers control as best she can, forcing all bystanders to get on board or get out of their way.
Train wrecks accumulate along their tumultuous trail as they encounter and dispatch various cocky pricks. Snowballing serious transgressions, (albeit, often with hilarious consequences), have the cast of characters reshuffling their lives, while the weekenders-cum-fugitives lam it cross-country.
Khouri's Academy Award winning script zig-zags through surprises, subtleties and insights. She extricates the buried, unleashes the internal, and unfetters the repressed, all the while unveiling the characters and motivating their evolution.
Harvey Keitel, chronically cast as a hard-on hard-ass character, plays off-type as detective Hal Slocumb, the only male already on the path to liberation. He is the film's ballast and barometer. His comprehension and compassion for Thelma and Louise keeps the movie grounded. And he provides a gauge for how far women's lib has come and how far it has yet to go.
By the time the film was released in 1991, the late sixties' emancipation was in need of re-liberating. The women's movement was ever-too-slowly seeping into sleepy small towns to reach the overwhelmed, down-and-out and out-of-touch. Arkansans Thelma and Louise, the characters and the movie, reignite the dialog.
The aftershock of the movie enraged multitudinous men, spooked some of the ladies, and frightened parents of daughters. On the other hand, the tweaked chick-flick goaded many women to shift gears and galvanize new avenues for their own lives.
As for any permanent changes to Hollywood, sexism remains comfortably in tact despite Thelma and Louise's accumulated awards, financial success and burgeoning stars - male and female.
But background history aside, for the filmmakers, cast and crew, this hit was about the story, not the message.
Khouri's script, Ridley Scott's direction, Adrian Biddle's cinematography, Hans Zimmer's music, and the charismatic performances combine to make this an important and transcendent gem - at least in the eyes of women.
After a movie ends, when I am not yet ready to part with the cinematic experience and return to the real world, I look to the Extras to let me linger longer - giving me time for the emotional osmosis to complete its permeation.
I count on deleted and extended scenes, chats with the actors and director, and a revealing run-on commentary. I want the chance to relish and revel in the methods and motives of the talented creatives. And I look for the how-to and why-not-to of filmmaking.
I am an insatiable snoop. I want to know. (And if it comes mixed with some on-set revelation of he-said-she-said fun gossipy stuff, so much the better.)
In these categories, the Extras deliver.
The deleted and extended scenes are illuminating. (Catherine Keener makes a surprise [and sadly cut] appearance as Harvey Keitel's wife.)
A must: Listen to Ridley Scott and view his "Alternative Ending." Food for thought.
Watch the "Documentaries and Featurettes." These segments (recorded about ten years after the film - and ten years ago) include all of the principals.
Who can get enough of Michael Madsen, Louise's anguished part-time paramour? Or McDonald, Thelma's addled husband? Pitt, here a more experienced actor, covers his deleted carnal debut with Davis.
(Note: Skip the "Commentary by Sarandon, Davis and Khouri;" it is redundant - re-edited from the "Documentaries.")
And to future filmmakers I recommend Scott's "Commentary." It's a 129 minute insight into a sweeping alpha-to-omega artist.
I especially endorse the "Commentary" to any practicing or aspiring screenwriter. The award winning Thelma and Louise manuscript was Callie Khouri's first, yet few script scribes since the invention of movies have been treated with as much respect and credibility by a fellow director. Scott's expository sounds more like Ridley's "Believe-It-Or-Not." Writer's: watch it and weep.
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Brad Pitt, Michael Madsen, and Harvey Keitel
Length: 129 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
DTS-HD MA 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1