Somebody said get a life so they did. "They" refer to 90's icons Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis) and Louise Sawyer (Suran Sarandon), an aging waitress and a 'desperate housewife' before a series would turn the term into some cocktail-drinking gossipy upper-class girls.
They get a life indeed but what the tag-line doesn't say is that they get death too. But what an extra after the two-day ride they had, many people live without actually living, these two women pushed the notion of being free to its most extreme form, and when they decide to take the big jump, we're taken by many contradicting sentiments but one of them isn't disbelief because Sarandon and Davis gave life to two extraordinary persons who found themselves. I never really got why the American Film Institute nominated them in the Top 50 heroes' list, but a last viewing convinced me, the final sacrifice sealed their status as cinematic icons.
But aside from the existential aspect of the film which, like the best road movies, focuses on the journey rather than the destination, there's the performances. Lesser acting, more clichés or directing à la pseudo-rebellious 2010's way would have ruined the film. Indeed, if there's anything "Thelma and Louise" exemplifies is how low feminism has sunk today by making everything a matter of "being like men" well this is exactly what Ridley Scott's film is not (but he's a man, so what does he know?) The fashion of gender-oriented movies today is to prove that women are as much capable of men but thankfully we don't need a female cop or a female truck driver for the film, we have pretty well-established archetypes, only this time, they're explored from a female standpoint.
The waitress isn't just here to cheer up the depressed visitors, she gives her personal insights about the rapist and her lack of surprise that he ended up being shot reveals how much of human nature she knows. Now, a word about the rapist, at first he's your usual womanizer and Thelma is obviously responsive to his charm, but we're not fooled, it's not his talk but the fact that he seemed to care for her, to be sensitive. Thelma left her door wide open so when she was caught in the trap, it was too late, he couldn't believe a woman who gave herself so easily was suddenly playing 'hard to get', that's why he was totally deaf to her cries and pleas until Louise's gun made him come to his senses. Still; why would he sign his own death warrant by letting these last words slip off his mouth.
That's the key, he didn't anticipate a reaction. This is a man who had such a low perception of women that in no way he felt endangered, and that was Louise's epiphany. Obviously, raping is the most cowardly and bestial way to assert male power, in the physical way, Louise knew that and saw her friend in state of helplessness, if even the gun didn't insert some sense in his mind, then he would do the same thing again. So she killed him and she didn't feel happy about it. This is the hit-or-miss moment of the film but it works because Sarandon puts so much truth in her acting that you can almost feel some intern brainstorm at that very moment. Was she right or not? Never mind, she did what he expected the least, and involuntarily setting the pattern for the next moves.
This is what the ending is about too, this is what everything is about: unpredictability, it starts with two women going fishing, then they must flee to Mexico, then circumstances force them to derail their road, a young Brad Pitt also manages to lure naive Thelma in his net and steal the money, forcing them to rely on a robbery, and then the encounter with a young cop makes them commit an irreparable offense and force them to leave a state and blow their cover. But these scenes aren't just time fillers, they allow one character to finally blossom: Thelma stops being that naive Southern housewife who falls for the first schmuck to a natural gun-wielder and a crazy confident girl who neutralizes the ultimate macho symbol, a cop, and makes him weep like a ballerina.
I don't feel like polluting this review by mentioning the recent "Ghostbusters" movie but the equivalent of a "Thelma and Louise" today would show female truck drivers acting the same toward men instead of women giving a lesson of decency, we wouldn't have comprehensive men like Louise's boyfriend played by Michael Madsen or the cop played by Harvey Keitel, all the guys would've been as rude as Thelma's husband (Christopher McDonald) wimpy as the cop or disgusting like the truck driver, and Louise would be a lesbian, nothing wrong with that of course, but the point is to show that they had nothing against men in the first place. But that today's audience consider a film like "Ghostbusters" feminist is an insult to real feminism, like "Thelma and Louise", a film that doesn't say that women are "little things" but that it's the way men look at them and it's up to them to make a difference by acting "big" which doesn't mean, acting like "men".
It's one extreme case of course but a real staple on empowering movies, an instant classic that was parodied a few years after its release in "The Simpsons" or "Wayne's World", that's the mark of iconic movies. When I was kid, I stopped watching it after an hour because the ad on TV made me believe it was a fun movie, it just got too dark after the rape, the killing and the robbery it took me some time to re-watch it, but I think I always knew there was something special about this film.