Monday, April 11, 2005

David Denby

"In Thelma & Louise, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, two large-scaled women, beautiful and gloriously eccentric, climb into a 1966 Thunderbird . . . and hit the road. . . . For them, liberty is an erotic experience that just keeps going--they don't want it to end. . . .

". . . . The men are taken seriously enough, but the relationship between the two women is the central thing, volatile and always funny, and a triumph for both actresses. . . .

". . . . A man's woman who has been forced, by circumstances, into a much tougher attitude towards men than she started out with, Louise is always decisive, but she grabs so hard at reality she wrests it out of shape. Sarandon has played women like Louise before but never with so much power and conviction or with so many shadings of cheerfulness and bitterness. Large and voluminous, with flashing eyes that once seemed to pop out of her head, Sarandon has much greater concentration now, a new hardness around her mouth that plays off nicely against the fleshy softness of the rest of her. After Bull Durham, White Palace, and Thelma & Louise, she has become the voice and image of experience in American movies. By comparison, a great technician like Meryl Streep seems lightweight and merely skillful. . . . [How Denby vacillates on Streep!]

". . . . Pursued, and broke, [Thelma and Louise] slip further into criminality . . . Robbery excites Thelma, and as she grows bolder, the relationship shifts. After long deploring Thelma's naivete [two dots over i and a mark over second e], Louise is astonished and then possessed by Thelma's new daring. Sarandon's eyes widen in disbelief.

"I'm still disturbed by Ridley Scott's tendency to make pretty pictures. He works up a terrific rhythm between Sarandon and Davis, but then, as if he didn't trust his characters, he interrupts what's going on to make a wordless montage or an automaobile commercial . . . . But still, for the director of Alien and Black Rain, this is a big step forward. Thelma & Louise is wonderfully acted from top to bottom, and it's full of life and jokes and offbeat perceptions. Ridley Scott has rid himself of the alien gnawing at his insides. People, it turns out, are more interesting in the long run, and Scott is shrewd enough to realize that the two women are the greatest subject in the world.

"Even men are interesting. . . .

"The men escape stereotype over and over. . . ."

David Denby
New York, June 10, 1991

Terrence Rafferty

“Thelma and Louise are lively, voluble good old girls, and they're not given to brooding; they keep each other's spirits up. The audience's, too. Davis and Sarandon are so vivid and likable that they carry up past the plot's most obvious contrivances; a little disbelief seems a small price to pay for being allowed to remain in their company….Error! Reference source not found.

"Davis is spectacular, but Sarandon, whose character has a less extreme emotional range, is every bit as good. Louise, a fortyish diner waitress…, is steadier, world-wearier, and more practical than her young friend. She has a been-there look about her, and she doesn't trust people much; she's always scolding Thelma for striking up conversations with strangers. (And her suspiciousness always turns out to be justified.) In many scenes, Sarandon plays straight person to Davis, and does it with the skill and good humor of an extremely confident actress. She trains a penetrating, no-nonsense stare on her companion's antics; her looks of affectionate disbelief often mirror the audience's reactions. And when she breaks down and laughs, giving in to the craziness around her, her abandon is infectious. Sarandon holds our attention by not betraying her character's emotions too readily. Her held-in quality makes an effective contrast to Davis's overflowing exuberance, and it has its own power, too; in a sense, Sarandon's mysterious straight-ahead intensity is what propels the story forward.

"There's an exhilarating ease and intuitiveness in the way these actresses work together; we feel, and share, their pleasure in surprising each other. "Thelma & Louise" is at its best in its most casual, most aimless-seeming moments, in the dawdling intervals between "important" scenes, while the women are just zipping down the highway and trying to figure out what to do next. (Or why they did what they did last. They often seem as dumbfounded by the story as the audience is.) And Ridley Scott provides an abundance of moments like these: scenes in which the women tease each other or get on each other's nerves or sing along with the car radio, as their hair blows all over their faces. The camera lingers on Davis and Sarandon as if it couldn't get enough of them: Scott seems to want to show us what they look like in every kind of light and every kind of mood. The director's entranced gaze slows down the rhythm of the narrative; quite a lot happens in this movie, but it has a leisurely, expansive air...."

Terrence Rafferty
New Yorker, June 3, 1991