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Monday, February 21, 2011

Thelma & Louise 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Thelma and Louise celebrates its 20th Anniversary with this release and it still resonates with a lot of people to this day. The movie became something of an anthem for female empowerment and triggered many discussions and disagreements once released. The concept of two women becoming fugitives due to poor judgement and circumstances was radical at the time.
Audiences were used to the buddy movie with two men (48 hours, Lethal Weapon, etc.) and a movie that featured two women as the leads of the movie and it’s controversial ending all but ensured divided audiences. Thelma and Louise ended up being nominated for six Academy Awards but won only Best Screenplay for Callie Khouri.


Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The movie focuses  on two close friends Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) who live in a small town with not much to show for their lives. Thelma's sole function in life is to make her obnoxious husband (Christopher McDonald) happy while Louise toils away as a waitress in a dingy diner and occasionally sees her frequently absent musician boyfriend (Michael Madsen).  Neither of them are particularly happy with their lives but they take comfort in their friendship and plan a fishing trip for just the two of them.
The only problem is that Thelma hasn’t broached the idea with her demanding husband because she knows he will tell her she can’t go.  In her first act of defiance, Thelma goes on the trip without talking to her husband.  That small decision emboldens Thelma who has spent much of her life caged up and unable to do the things she wants, and after stopping at a roadside bar her flirting with a stranger takes a turn for the worse when he tries to rape her in the parking lot. Fortunately for Thelma, Louise shows up in time along with the gun that Thelma brought to protect them from wildlife.  The domino chain of events that start in the parking lot force Thelma and Louise to become fugitives.
On the run with the little bit of money Louise got from her boyfriend, and with the only goal of reaching Mexico, things go from bad to worse when they meet J.D. (Brad Pitt) a young drifter who charms his way into getting a ride with them and ends up stealing all of the money they had after seducing the eager Thelma. When faced with the prospect of no money and no other way to reach Mexico, Thelma discovers her inner fortitude and robs a convenience store which makes the police want to capture them even more.  Dedicating even more resources to their capture, the police begin to tighten the net around the women despite a sympathetic cop (Harvey Keitel) who fears that the escalation will drive the women to even more desperate acts.
While there isn’t much of a plot for this movie, it does have some interesting story arcs and some great performances.  The fact that the usually strong willed Louise falls apart after the loss of her money and it’s the usually flighty and unfocused Thelma who comes up with the plan to rob stores and actually does it, makes for an interesting reversal that adds some dimensions to both characters.  I can’t think of two other actresses other than Susan Sarandan and Genna Davis who could have matched their chemistry together.   Brad Pitt was also great in what turned out to be his big break which of course was the first step towards super-stardom. I also have to mention Christopher McDonald who specializes in playing these kind of insufferable roles.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p transfer (2.35:1) looks very good and a far cry better than the previous DVD release.  Detail is much improved, and colors are more vivid than before. Contrast is excellent and there’s no overbearing DNR present.  The film grain is present but hasn’t been completely scrubbed away like it has been on a lot of recent releases.  Some of the night shots aren’t as deep and inky as I would like but overall the black levels are suitably dark.  I really loved the way the golden sunlight framed Thelma’s head at the end of the movie and I’m sure that many people will appreciate a shirtless Brad Pitt in this near perfect transfer.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is almost as good as the video but doesn’t reach the same heights.  Don’t get me wrong however, this is a good mix and it’s a lot more dynamic that the previous DVD track.  For a dialogue heavy movie, this mix actually offers some surprises that you normally don’t expect in this type of a movie.  The sounds of bullets sound life-like and a lot of the chases between the cars and the helicopters offer a rare chance for these kind of movie to flex a little and it does when given the opportunity.  There’s some good directional effects and some panning, but mostly this is a front speaker driven movie.  Dialogue is clear and a lot of emphasis is given to Hans Zimmer’s score (which sounds like none of his others) but it never completely overshadows the actors.

Special Features (4 out of 5 stars) 

There’s a lot of good material here and I especially like the hour long Thelma and Louise: The Last Journey documentary by longtime Scott collaborator Charles De Lauzirika.  Unfortunately, all of these ported extras are in standard definition which is puzzling to say the least.
  • Audio Commentaries - The first track is with Director Ridley Scott which is a little dry but very informative, and the second one is with Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, and the screenwriter, Callie Khouri which was a lot more  informal and proved to be more enjoyable.
  • Thelma and Louise: The Last Journey – The best part of the extras, this three-part documentary (Conception and CastingProduction and PerformanceReaction and Resonance) covers the entire production in a welcome concise but thorough way that includes all of the primary cast and crew.  Even Brad Pitt returned to talk about his small role in the film!
  • Original Theatrical Featurette – An original look at the production of the movie which isn’t that great but it does offer an interesting option to toggle the voice-over actor on or off for the short piece.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes  - Forty minutes of deleted and extended scenes.  This is mostly extended scenes but I really didn’t think any of them needed to be in the movie as they didn’t really add anything to the experience.
  • Extended Ending - I did find this interesting though.  This is a longer ending sequence, with optional commentary by Ridley Scott where we see a more definitive ending that proved to be too depressing for test audiences.  I’m not sure what it says about me, but I liked it and wish it was used in the film.
  • Multi-Angle Storyboards – The Final Chase - The final chase is storyboarded here first alone, and then in a storyboard to final shot comparison.
  • “Part of You, Part of Me” Music Video by Glenn Frey
  • Trailer and TV Spots

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars) 

While this movie wasn’t really my cup of tea, I can still appreciate the performances, the great cinematography, and all of the little almost invisible details that add up to one cohesive picture.  One of my favorite details is the fact that Thelma’s husband drives a new Corvette (with a license plate that read “The One,” while the car left in the garage and presumably hers, is a small piece of crap car which clearly signifies the roles they play in their relationship.  It’s that attention to detail that makes Ridley Scott a director that I greatly admire and while this wasn’t one of my favorite works of his, the craftsmanship of all involved is on display and I can understand why so many love it.
Order your copy today!
For the ladies (or anyone attracted to Brad Pitt)…

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