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Thelma and Louise: SE

MGM // R // February 4, 2003
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 31, 2003 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

One of the more controversial films of the early 90's, the buzz surrounding "Thelma and Louise" has long since quieted, but the film still has its followers. The film stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon as the titular duo, who take off on a little vacation together as the film opens. Unfortunately, things go wrong at a small roadside bar, leading the two girls to go on the run from the law. Meanwhile, Thelma's jerk husband Darryl (Christopher MacDonald), cops Hal Slocumb (Harvey Keitel) and Max (Stephen Tobolowski) and Louise's boyfriend Jimmy (Michael Madsen) are following close behind.

I've never been a particularly big fan of "Thelma and Louise" (I'm still a bit confused about how it won Best Original Screenplay), but I'm still able to appreciate the film's core, which is the friendship between the two lead characters. Davis and Sarandon are able to make these rich, interesting characters and balance their feelings of the joy of freedom with the emotional turmoil and distress from their situation. Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen provide good supporting performances, while Christopher MacDonald once again plays an easy-to-hate jerk of a bad guy, which is certainly what he does well.

The film's controversy largely stemmed from the way that the picture offers a "guy" road picture, only with female characters. The two women turn into outlaws and fight back against the men in their lives that have caused them terrible harm or grief. The film doesn't always portray men particularly well, but some of the male characters at least are somewhat well-defined and aren't entirely presented in a negative light. Personally, the film has always seemed more - or equally - a film about friendship than anything, as it portrays the strong bonds of friendship between two women who stand by each other in the best of times and the worst of times.

Earlier, I said that I was confused about how the film won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. I certainly don't mean that entirely as a negative statement against the script, which develops the two lead characters (and some of the supporting roles) quite well. I suppose it's just that the film seems to be built more about performances and spirit than dialogue - the film's dialogue is satisfactory, but I still feel it's the performances that really lift the dialogue to another level. There's also a lot of quiet moments scattered throughout this picture that are effective, too.

Technical credits are also first-rate, as they are with any picture directed by Ridley Scott. Adrian Biddle's scope cinematography looks positively terrific, with well-composed shots and captures of the stunning scenery. Production design, costume design and editing are also superb. While the picture seems like it would be rather extended at nearly 135 minutes, I still find that it moves along at a fairly rapid clip.

While I still don't quite understand all the fuss about "Thelma and Louise", I can still appreciate the positive aspects of the film and the level of craft and effort in the production.


VIDEO: "Thelma and Louise" boasts a new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation (struck from a new high-def master) for this special edition re-release. A solid improvement over the prior, non-anamorphic release, the picture quality here isn't without some concerns, but it's still quite nice. Sharpness and detail remained fairly accurate and above-average throughout, as the picture remained crisp and dealt with a few smokey scenes well. The picture does look slightly soft, but I'm guessing this was an intentional choice by cinematographer Adrian Biddle.

A few issues were present at points throughout the picture, but none caused too much dismay. Light edge enhancement was present in a few scenes, as slight halos appeared. Given that the film has passed the 10-year mark, I wasn't surprised to see the occasional speckle and mark on the print used. However, the film usually appeared pleasantly crisp and clean, with little in the way of wear.

The film's color palette is slightly subdued (this picture looks slightly washed-out at times, but maybe that was intentional) for the most part, but there are instances where brighter colors appear. No matter how vivid or natural, colors appeared accurately rendered, with no smearing or other noticable faults. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked fine.

SOUND: "Thelma and Louise" is presented by MGM in Dolby Digital 5.1. Given the age of the film, this is almost certainly a remixed soundtrack, as the film was not likely 5.1 theatrically. Those expecting the kind of soundtrack that can usually be found on a Ridley Scott picture will likely be dissapointed, as the film's audio presentation is fairly lackluster. Surround use is minimal, if at all, with only some light ambience in the surrounds and occasional slight reinforcement of the music. Audio quality is just okay; there's really no low-end and some of the louder dialogue sounds somewhat shrill. This is just a satisfactory soundtrack.

EXTRAS: The DVD includes two audio commentaries: one from director Ridley Scott, which was included on the prior DVD release. Also, there's a newly recorded commentary, which includes actress Susan Sarandon, actress Geena Davis and screenwriter Callie Khouri. The newly recorded track with the women is both entertaining and very informative, as the three have a good time recalling the various stories that happened during filming. While there's stretches of good humor and shared memories, the three also are able to recall a surprising amount of facts and tidbits, given the fact that the film was filmed more than ten years ago, at this point. Davis is certainly the leader of the three, although Sarandon and Khouri certainly provide some interesting tidbits of their own. As fr the other commentary, but Ridley and Tony Scott have always provided intelligent, informative commentaries with a remarkable amount of detail, and this one is certainly no different. While there are some gaps of silence on occasion throughout, Scott goes through nearly every aspect of the production's technical and creative choices, while keeping up energy and enthusiasm during the discussion.

Also found on the side of this dual-sided DVD where the film is are both the darker extended ending (with commentary from Scott) and 16 extensions of scenes. The opening text menu explains that, while there were few totally deleted scenes from the film, there were extensions that are seen here (a marker highlights which parts of the scene were deleted). These clips were taken from the workprint of the film and are actually in fairly decent shape. A "Scene Selection" menu for these deleted scenes is also available, and it gives a further explanation of each scene.

The other side of the disc continues the special features. First off, there is the "documentaries and featurettes" section. The section itself actually only features two pieces, one being the original theatrical featurette (which isn't of much interest) and the other being "The Last Journey", which is a more in-depth documentary produced for this DVD. Split into three pieces ("Conception & Casting", "Production & Performance" and "Reaction & Resonance"), the 45-minute program brings together many members of the cast and crew, including screenwriter Khouri, director Scott, the film's producer, Sarandon, Davis, composer Hans Zimmer and others. This certainly isn't the usual "happy talk" fare, as there are hints of disagreements between Scott and Khouri, while the picture really focuses nearly all of its running time really diving into the issues at hand, including both production obstacles and obstacles in getting the material made at all.

Rounding out the supplemental section are: a multi-angle comparison between the storyboards & final scene for...well, the final scene. A split-screen comparison is one angle, while the other angle is a close-up on the storyboards for the scene. Also, an extensive photo gallery for the film is included, along with both the theatrical and home video trailers for the movie. A trailer for "Hannibal" (also directed by Scott) and a music video by Glenn Frey are also included.

Final Thoughts: While I'm not among the hardcore fanbase of "Thelma and Louise", I still find a lot to like about the film, especially the two excellent lead performances. This new Special Edition DVD from MGM is clearly a stellar offering from the studio: while the audio quality is rather iffy, video quality is an improvement over prior releases and all of the supplements are entertaining and insightful. Recommended.

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Highly Recommended

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