thoughts on THELMA AND LOUISE

January 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Ford-Thunderbird-de-1966Thelma and Louise.  By Callie Khouri.  1990.  Twenty three years ago.  That 1966 Thunderbird convertible, on today’s market, would be worth, hmm.  Lots?  Poor Louise.

This movie’s been studied and reviewed and picked apart and praised by so many truly film savvy folks that here I’d like only to add a few thoughts which came to me while I watched it last night.  Starting with how wonderful it is that the camera view wobbles on the first sights you get of sweet, dear, gosh-I’d-like-to-whack-her-in-the-kewpie-face-once, Thelma.

That longtallgorgeous, innocent, heartrendingly pure, brilliantly played, dangerously naïve woman.

And Louise, her shady Texas past still palpable, a rode hard, put up wet woman, still sexy hot, but broken.  Who loves her.  Like a really tolerant sister.

The honesty of the characters in this movie startles me today.

When I first saw it I was about Thelma’s age, but no way was my life like hers.  So I thought.  I was well educated, chasing my first real job, dating men who were NOT made for, and would rather die than be forced into, anything polyester.  I’d known Daryls.  Maybe even dated a potential-Daryl type.  In high school.  A rural town.  He took me out in his vintage Ford truck and we played chicken with his friends on dark country roads.  With bad beer and rum because I didn’t like his Wild Turkey.  As it were.  He was fun.  Those of us who went on to college in cities far away never did that again.  On breaks back home, we stood around in local bars in our prepped out corduroys and rubbed shoulders with the ones who stopped by for beer after their long dark country road drives into town just to check out the college set, see if they were missing anything.

It didn’t take wearing polyester for a man to mistreat his date, though.  It just took setting up that character in Thelma’s life to make her choice to run away, and her eventual decision to keep going over the cliff, plausible.  Because it perhaps is a little harder to quickly, in movie time, set up a well-dressed successful man as such a clear shit.

Shits who wear polyester and their housewives have nowhere else to turn, but the “haves” do.  Right?  Mama, their trust funds?  Not really, but I’d bet the cumulative movie viewing mind would go right there if Daryl had been, say, the local judge’s high school quarterback son just back from law school, joining his father’s practice and recently elected a deacon at church.  And if Thelma wore pearls.  She would, by movie logic, definitely be a junior leaguer.  Not immediately sympathetic.  And there would be no story.

Was my life like Thelma’s?  Making me think so, even to a tiny degree, is what the movie’s business is.  Involve me.  Drag me in, put my ego at the center on the screen.

At fifty, I see me right there.  In both women.  When the waitress, grilled by the detective, insists that neither of those girls is the murderin’ type, WHO each of them is flashes before my mind in crystal clarity.

Louise is jaded and wise as hell and understands the dark side of man, expects nothing for herself but to be left alone, and aches for love she knows this world ain’t gonna give her.  She already doesn’t need to play out aggression, because she’s given up.  And the waitress knows that in her.

Thelma is the kewpie doll and the waitress has her pegged, too.  Thelma can’t control her purse.  How can she control a gun?

Even the soul of the waitress flashes clear.  She may not know much, but she knows the difference between drunks and bad drunks.

Finally, apart from discussing how much I love Brad Pitt traumatizing Daryl with that “here’s me fucking your wife” scene at the county jail- he says, in his oh-wow-I’d-watch-this-movie-just-to-see-Brad-Pitt voice, “I like your wife.”  Ha!  She liked you, too, babe.  We all did.

Finally, to Mindful Meditation.  A thing we need to know more about.  Or at least me, now I’m facing my next half century.

The results of mindfulness beam in Louise’s face, towards the end of the movie, in the desert, at night, when she walks away from the car and Thelma, and takes in the sunrise.  Pure, unfiltered wonder.

In that scene she is fully aware, fully mindful, of exactly what she’s done, who she is, what lies ahead, and that she has to make decisions in her last hours of freedom.  And she is able, now she’s pushed to the limit, literally, to stare at the wonder in front of her and let it seep in.

She radiates promise.  Watch that scene.  Susan Sarandon, bravo.  Wow.

For me, the older me, not the young me first watching this flick; for me, the end comes rushing forward from that moment on.  When you’ve met the actual moment of mindfulness, felt the sunrise and the vast expanse of earth embrace you in spite of all you’ve done in a world where what you’ve done will be judged in various and not always positive ways, when…. Then.

Younger, I’d have looked for a way out.  Prayed for a good lawyer.  Whipped that car around at the last minute.

I’d never, when younger, been pushed beyond what, at that time, I considered the life I had a right to live.

Now?  When I finally have that moment that Louise had, there in the sunrise in the desert, not just a lucky tourist saying “wow” but a real woman basking in infinity, the mindfulness of being human regardless of when and who, well, when I have that, there’d better not be a fast convertible nearby.

Coming to that moment because it’s scripted is one thing.  Khouri scripted it convincingly and beautifully.  Coming to it as a real woman?  Lotta ground to cover, lotta life to keep living to get there for real.

Okay.  That was my short commentary on Thelma and Louise.

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