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Tuesday
May242016

Thelma & Louise, Pt. 3: Pitt Stops 

25th Anniversary Five-Part Mini Series Event 

In Pt 1 of our lookback at Thelma & Louise, a fateful night at the Silver Bullet threw Thelma & Louise off their course. In Pt 2 the best friends weren't so friendly  as they struggled to find a new one. When we left them, they'd picked up a charming hitchhiker (Hellooo, Baby Brad) and but Louise needed a cup of coffee and to collect herself. Anne Marie & Margaret, our own superheroine duo in Los Angeles were grappling with the surprise killing of a would be rapist. Was it rage and pride that motivated Louise to shoot after she had already saved Thelma? It certainly provoked audiences but was there any other way to play the film's themes?

Louise is trying to plot their next move when we return to them, just before they jump back in their '66 Thunderbird - Editor

Pt 2 by Daniel Crooke

50:58 – Surprised to see her leather-faced boyfriend, Louise looks like she’s seen a ghost. Based on their last phone call, it didn’t sound like she was planning on casually bumping into Jimmy north of the border anytime soon. These men just can’t get out of our heroines’ way; is it that maddeningly impossible to trust an independent woman to chart her own course in this world? (more...)

51:00 – What’s black and white and red all over? Jimmy’s newspaper that was definitely not for reading and a frame-stealing stop sign wedged and looming between him and Louise. I don’t recall seeing too many traffic signs on the Nostromo, but Ridley Scott is foreshadowing in the audience’s plain sight. The direction of their relationship all comes down to this evening. But only Louise can see the sign ahead; Jimmy’s got his back to it, and this probably isn’t the first time.

Oh, and also that other dash of red coming from across the street is an Arby’s that I will pretend signifies the forthcoming slab of room service beef that Thelma was unaware she’d ordered. Can you tell that I can’t wait to get to that part?

51:15 – Jimmy orders a second room for Thelma and puts it on his credit card. You know, exactly the type of financial behavior you look for in a potential husband. Louise and Jimmy’s over the shoulder, dirty close-ups indicate how they’ve been intertwined in each other’s lives for a while now and this moment’s not any different – save for the homicidal circumstances around it. Outside the window, the sky shifts from night blue to pitch black in a second; even nature knows that these two have urgent business to attend to! It may be the oldest telegraphing trick in the book, but the same goes for the portentous precipitation outside: change is quite literally in the air.

51:25 Meanwhile, the pheromone-hopped duo of Thelma and J.D. are looking a lot friskier cozying up to one another in the backseat with their boots kicked up on the headrests. It may be raining outside but the forecast ain’t much drier in the car. Louise and Jimmy interrupt the fun – Geena Davis plays Thelma’s surprise as faux excitement before instantly switching to self-protecting interrogation – and they kick J.D. to the curb. My love for off-screen deadpan is as wide as the Grand Canyon, and Susan Sarandon dousing Thelma’s flame with a quick “He’s gone.” more than sticks the landing.

That’s him going. I love to watch him go.”

52:05 – As J.D. saunters away in chiseled silhouette for what thankfully feels like a very long time – kudos to Scott for holding the shot – Jimmy tells Louise to take a cold shower to which she responds: “Well, you know me, Jimmy. I’m just a wild woman.” This is the sort of thing she may have said in jest just a couple days ago, between making Darryl ham sandwiches and hoarding Kroger coupons, but now it’s a warning shot of renewed identity.

So far Thelma & Louise has mostly been driven by moments of forward, full-steam momentum – the restless score, line dancing and murder, the seeds of police pursuit – interrupted by brief roadside rests in coffee shops and motels that end almost as quickly as they begin. Thelma couldn’t even get herself a primer tan before Louise swung the car around the pool. But in this overnight interlude, Scott and Khouri slow the pace to separate our heroes and confine them to their own motel room crucibles.

52:23 – In Thelma’s room, Louise entrusts her with their bag of cash while also dodging her assertions that she really cares about Jimmy. While her reason for rebuffing Jimmy reads more like an excuse – “It’s like, I said it’s no different than any other guy. He just loves the chase.” – the same accusation of guard dog paranoia can certainly be said for every male character in the film. When Louise snaps at Thelma for running her mouth about Jimmy, it’s clear that there’s more important individual business to take care of than gossiping together. And speaking of disconnection…

I love the way Nick evaluated Scott’s decisions to place or not place our girls in a two-shot together in the previous chapter, so I’ll rip that idea straight off here and point out that by interrupting the mutual fluidity of their actions in this scene, Scott severs their cord for the evening as they both have separate agendas to attend to. When Louise hands the money to Thelma, the bag of cash is all that links the cuts and they put the future on hold for the night. This section is marked by a multitude of emotional transactions.

Oh, and in the ongoing discussion of whether Thelma & Louise looks and feels like a Ridley Scott film: take a gander out on the cerulean-soaked porch. If you squint hard enough, you just might see some tears mixed in with the rain. Or just look like Michael Madsen!

53:30 – You know that queasy feeling when you see a grand romantic gesture that only one half of the couple feels is grand and romantic? I give you this shot. Louise is much more of a wildflower than a clipped rose, anyway.

Jealous Jimmy is too impetuous to understand why Louise won’t give up the answer to why she’s on the lam so obviously he’s gotta break some glasses to show his emotions. One of the reasons I love Thelma & Louise is its endless parade of examples demonstrating why women are so much smarter than men. Louise knows that if she tells Jimmy about Harlan, she’ll incriminate him alongside her. All Jimmy can think about is whether she’s been with another man or committed a murder; naturally, he’s defined the perimeters without having any idea of where to locate the truth inside of them. He will propose marriage nonetheless.

54:55 – Thank you, Ridley, for trusting your audience and not cutting to an insert shot of Jimmy’s engagement ring.

55:20 – While I certainly believe that part of Jimmy’s timing is to lock Louise down – good luck getting these women back in their chains, honey – I also think the clear, warts-and-all affection shared between these two demonstrates that they could’ve gotten hitched down the line under different circumstances. But that’s far back in the rear view, at this point. Jimmy had to cross two states in a plane to catch up with her and you know how he hates to fly!

We ditch the wide shots of the motel room, fraught with negative space of lingering drama, and volley between those dirty close-ups of Louise and Jimmy as the hard truths begin to come out. Down the hall, however…

56:09 – Hey girl! Bite off one of those for me!

56:22 – There’s a knock at the door and it feels like destiny in a cowboy hat. She opens it and there he is: our bad boy J.D.

But not so fast. While he goes on about hitchhiking in vain, Thelma’s eyes show glimmers of reticence about letting her crush inside without protection. Davis plays this moment with Pitt wisely compared to the fluffy fun they were having earlier in the convertible; waiting in the car feels hypothetical next to the vulnerability of an empty motel room. You don’t know quite whether to trust Jimmy as he rattles his alibi. Pitt plays this bit of motor mouthing as a charming defense, his engine sputtering when it doesn’t instantly turn Thelma on. But, ultimately, who can say no to this hot young thing?

57:15 – While our eponymous criminals are on their own for the night, Scott crosscuts between their motel rooms to intermingle the drama and highlight the stark contrasts and surprising similarities between their romantic exodus and genesis. Louise keeps empathetically breaking up with Jimmy while we can’t wait to return to Thelma’s room where things are heating up with J.D.

57:45 – Speaking of. If their childlike dispositions weren’t already outlined enough for you, cutting from stark relationship decisions to a game of hand slapping pretty much says all you need to know about Thelma and J.D, whose shirt has magically disappeared but you won’t hear us complaining.

58:10 – The J.Delma seduction ramps up as he caresses her fingers, slips off her wedding ring, and drops it into a glass of whiskey. Hello, visual metaphor! And hello growing trove of empty mini liquor bottles. Time to restock, Thelma.

58:24 – You have to hand it to Pitt for nailing every single moment of kiddy ebullience in this film, nearly reaching apex as he bounces on the bed like a silly little baby. The same cannot be said of his glistening pecs, which literally do not move a muscle and are very much adult rated.

58:48 – He reveals that he’s got a criminal record by way of robbery, and while this should maybe tip off Thelma to keep a close eye on her belongings, she instead fairly interprets this as a connection. For the evening, she feels less like Butch and Sundance than she does Bonnie and Clyde. It’s so much fun to see how this newfound reckless freedom and devilish curiosity develop across Davis’ blooming face; she’s finally getting a taste of boundless life outside Darryl’s walls and asking all the questions she wants. She’s even picking up a few tips.

This flirty back and forth between Thelma and J.D. is smooth as silk and you just want to get wrapped up all inside it. Pitt’s adolescent braggadocio is pitch perfect. You can tell he doesn’t mean it when he says he should stop showing off.

1:00:00 – And neither do we because at the one hour mark, Brad Pitt mimes a stick up with a hairdryer and blows us all. Away! He may believe that “if done properly, armed robbery doesn’t have to be a totally unpleasant experience” but all I’m getting out of this exchange is pent up pleasure. Which, thankfully, erupts.

I may be an outlaw, darlin’, but you’re the one stealing my heart.”

1:01:11 – In another stark contrast cut, we find Louise all alone on the side of the couch. Those intimate close-ups where you’d find a little bit of Jimmy on the side of the frame? Gone. He’s all by his lonesome in his own shot, sitting on the side of the bed. They talk about the moment where they first met and Louise walks over to sit on the bed with him. Now, reconciled in the frame, they sit together as autonomous individuals unwound of their complicated relationship and linked by pure, mutual understanding. Just because they’ve resolved their issues doesn’t mean they can’t have one last night together.

1:02:06 – But forget about all that meaningful grown up stuff – let’s get adult! It’s time to consummate the audience’s J.D. love affair, teased out from that first phallic shot and finally here to get off. To be totally honest, I think the more words put on these images, the less sexy they become so let’s all just enjoy the Adonis, the liberated woman, and this hot mess of fetish we’ve all been waiting for:

1:03:32 – The sex montage soundtrack disintegrates through the wall as we cut to the morning after, from Louise’s point of view. Sucking down a cig at the window while Jimmy sleeps, it’s a new day with a new mission. She’s shaky from the fallout but resolute to survive.

1:04:09 – One of my favorite subtle gestures throughout the film is how Louise treats her waitresses with generosity, eye contact, and unsaid sisterhood. Living in Los Angeles, home of the twenty-four hour diner, I thankfully have met a small army of these steely refillers whose dispositions feel straight out of 1991. I guess this is as good a time as any to bury the fact that I was two months old when this film was first released.

I’m pretty much over the Jimmy storyline by this point but this is a wonderful exchange...

Louise: Damn, Jimmy, what’d you do, take some kind of pill that makes you say all the right stuff?

Jimmy: I’m chokin’ on it.

1:06:00 – Then they’re choking on each other in a bit of PDA that feels decidedly un-Louise. But it’s a goodbye so we’ll forgive it, if only for the hysterical reaction shots of the waitresses.

1:07:15 – Thelma saunters into the diner with a cheeky grin that can only scream I Got Laid! and our heroes are reunited over the latest in their long line of cups of coffee. Louise isn’t quite picking up the post-coital energy she’s putting down, giving her a quizzical once over before asking whether she’s high or crazy.

Well, I’m not on drugs, but I might be... CRAZY!”

This scene is the goofiest, hair-down moment since before Harlan hit the asphalt, and it’s a joy to watch Davis let loose and break Sarandon’s surliness as they revel in her long overdue sexual awakening. It's a shame their fun has to end so quickly.  Anytime these women get too comfortable throughout the film, there’s always a man pulling their hair back to another fire they gotta put out.  Thelma left a bagful of cash alone in a room with a stranger? They race back to the room, to see if J.D. really is just taking a shower.

1:08:50 – But, of course, the money’s gone. Despondent, speechless, and already heart-bruised, Louise finds herself at the end of her rope. She’s just abandoned one future for the promise of a fresh start, and now even that’s taken away from her. Sarandon sheds her resolve-filled layers and the whippy strength we’ve grown to love about Louise and reveals that no matter how heavy-duty a person may seem, everyone has their breaking point. We feel the weight of her collapsed dreams as she matter-of-factly accepts that things are just not okay. Don’t tell her, but there’s still an hour to go in this story and try as she might, Thelma can’t cheer her up. But once they hit the road, she turns out to have a few tricks up her sleeve.

1:10:43 – Hal and his armada of cop cars roll up to Chez Thelma and set up shop in the living room. He tells Darryl they’ve tapped the phones. Darryl probably doesn’t know what this means and is worried that it will leave fingerprints. When discussing Thelma he says he’s “about as close as I can be to a nutcase like that” and he, Hal, and Stephen Tobolowsky have a good laugh about how bitches be crazy. Because if you can’t understand them, it must be their fault, and the only way to reach their feeble minds is with sweet nothings.

Get me out of here. Can we go back to the convertible now please?!

1:12:55 – Phew, I’ve never been happier to get dust in my eyes. Thelma pulls the car over to a convenience store with a cigarette dangling from her mouth and puts on a pair of conspicuously dark shades. She runs into the store – presumably to stock up on mini liquor bottles – leaving the beat-up and broken down Louise to stew in the car. Not even smoking can pull her out of this funk.

1:13:43 – But when she sees too elderly women across the street, trapped behind glass and drained of agency, the fresh air begins to smell like freedom. These women aren’t just a depressing symbol of a life unfulfilled or the certain future from which she and Thelma broke away; they’re cheerleaders, egging her on to roll with the punches and stay in the fight. And then, breaking this moment of reflection…

1:14:09 – “DRIVE, LOUISE!” Thelma sprints out of the store with a second wind and a bagful of cash. She told you it was gonna be okay, Louise! They speed outta town in a delirious rush, back on the road and high off the robbery with a new addition to their growing list of laws broken. Finally finishing her rise from the ashes, Thelma basks in the sunlight and blows up the whole game. Not bad for a cloistered housewife. Meanwhile Louise, shocked, processes the totality of what's just gone down: escalating danger that'll be even harder to escape but true love from her BFF. It’s a beautiful thing, friendship.

 

Sometimes all it takes to cheer up your best pal is holding a convenience store at gunpoint.

1:15:00 – Which we see via surveillance footage, in a sharp cut, that shows Thelma politely robbing the store in what has to be the most charming heist of all time. Thanks for the tip, J.D.!

1:15:03 – And in an even sharper, timeline condensing edit, we learn that the footage was no cutaway gag – it’s under investigation by Hal, Darryl, and miscellaneous investigators. In a room stuffed with blockheaded dudes, there’s no better punch line than Darryl's slacked jaw at the sight of his lady behaving badly and breaking free. No wonder they can’t catch up.

With fresh marks on their criminal records and tire treads along the highway, Thelma and Louise are on the road again with renewed purpose and even fewer fucks to give. Nathaniel’s in hot pursuit with part four

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Reader Comments (16)

That shot of Pitt with the blow dryer has always reminded me of Beatty in Shampoo, and it can't have been entirely unintentional. It was certainly prescient.

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I LOVE this movie!

It can be interpreted in so many ways: a lesbian movie, feminist movie, a political drama, a road movie, modern western movie. a tragic drama, contemporary American drama

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

This was the first film we watched in my college Introduction to Film class. I had already seen it 4 times by that point, but it was amazing to hear reactions of people that hadn't seen it. If ever there were a year for a Best Actress tie, this should be it! :)

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

OK. Here's when I say that Sarandon should have won the Oscar for this performance. Her breakdown is memorable.

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

That gesture when Louise puts her hands over Jimmy's eyes just kills me every time. as much of a rush as the Brad Pitt scene is, I've always been just as fond of the crosscut drama in Louise's room. Sarandon is so perfect in this movie. Every last flicker of her face is a beauty.

May 24, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I don't think I've ever once enjoyed Michael Madsen onscreen, but the chemistry between him and Surandon is unexpected. She must have that effect on her costars because for the first time I can imagine someone Madsen plays outside the confines of the action.

To further discuss that this doesn't look like a Ridley Scott film: I'm still confounded that those bodyworshipping shots of Pitt were shot by a heterosexual male. That gaze is the Sahara, it's so thirsty.

May 24, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

Chris - LOL. I maintain that the greatest movie stars render sexuality a moot point. There's something about supernova charisma that allows everyone to freely drool without even contemplating that they're drooling ;) and Brad Pitt sure had it. Has it. But what a breakthrough this was for him.

May 24, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Was it necessary for men to be introduced as possibilities after the attempted rape and successful murder? The whole movie is about the crushing systematic patriarchy they live under. Harlan is the only outright evil male character in the movie while the rest of them are simply jerks or typical men needing to solve a woman's issue for her. I think the screenwriter wanted to cover all her tracks at the potential for an alternate future for these women she knew were doomed the moment they prevented their oppressor from harming anyone else ever again.

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Hi, I just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this series - as much as the one for The Silence of the Lambs a couple of months back. Only difference this time is that this one has fallen in a week that has become uncommonly busy for me at work, and so I haven't got much time to comment. Ideally I'd have been commenting on each entry, but I think I'll have to content myself with just reading the entries and everyone else's comments this time. Even after all these years (and I saw Thelma & Louise in the cinema when it first came out), I still enjoy their road trip and the twists and turns it takes them on. And the lovely acting and craft all round.

Extra honours for being still the most recent film to receive two Best Actress nominations. (And isn't it odd that, while two nominations from the same film haven't happened in Best Actress or Best Supporting Actor since 1991, or in Best Actor since 1984, we have since 1991 had nine years in which there have been two nominees from the same film in Best Supporting Actress. What is it about that category?)

Looking forward to the next installment! Thanks.

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Nathaniel - That is so well said re: greatest movies stars and sexuality. Pitt's swagger is so arresting that I didn't feel the least bit trashy indulging in it. Nor should we - this type of star image is rare, best to appreciate it!

Chris - Most everything I feel for Jimmy comes from Louise's clear affection. I adored The Meddler - maybe because I wasn't expecting a moving ensemble comedy about overcoming depression? - but found J.K. Simmons' performance to be a bit of a Xerox of that rugged, aged cowboy archetype. But Sarandon's vulnerable attraction to him won me over to his side, as well.

Peggy Sue - Had I not already included so many close-ups of Sarandon - I'd have screenshot every subtle shift in her gaze during her breakdown scene. Masterclass.

May 24, 2016 | Registered CommenterDaniel Crooke

I could be wrong, but I don't think the movie would have worked if they both had sex scenes after killing someone. It works that Sarandon's scene is much more focused on love lost. The killing aspect of the movie is/was still shocking since women are rarely portrayed as violent, unless its a biopic like Monster, or its a straight up horror movie. I remember thinking that the movie skirted on the edge just right, so you sympathize with Sarandon but clearly she knows she did something wrong and then has to decide whether to face the music or just keep running. I like seeing these stills where she looked her actual age on film. She and Geena Davis were great together.

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJono

There was a scripted sex scene for Louise which Sarandon fault against. The screenwriter like I said before tried everything knowing the inevitable fate of these characters. As if penetration is going to make someone forget they just killed someone recently.

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Many years ago I worked at a Western Union location, and so I have an unusual take on THELMA & LOUISE.

In my opinion, the first scene with Louise and Jimmy is one of the reasons that people do not understand how Western Union money transfers work. It's true that Louise can receive money with a previously arranged code word like "Peaches" if she lacks an identification card or (more likely) wants to avoid using her real name. It is NOT true that Louise has to pick up the money at a specific location. You could argue that the part of Oklahoma (?) they were in had just the one Western Union, so Jimmy knew where to send and intercept her. And that's fine.

The problem is that people who watch this movie and later use Western Union seem to think that the money somehow travels to a specific location. This becomes quite annoying when they enter the store, announce themselves, and expect me to hand them a pretty envelope with their name on top and cash inside. I want to tell them that they aren't that important, but instead I explain: they fill out the form, and I check Western Union's centralized system to see if the sender has transferred the money. If so, the system authorizes and prints out a check, which they endorse and I cash.

Sometimes, when the money is not in the system, they ask if the money was sent to a different Western Union location. This is when I consider strangling them.

Jeez, Louise.

May 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

Brevity-

That was the most captivating description of the functionalities of a Western Union I think I'll ever read :) haha, I bet you have stories for days!

May 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

Loving this series as much as I loved the one on Silence of the Lambs a few months back. Helps that both SoTL & T&L are two of my favorite movies, ever. Brava!

May 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRob

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