By Marc S. Sanders

Kenneth Branagh is inventive director.  Arguably, his most uncelebrated film is the noir inspired mystery, Dead Again, which features himself and his wife at the time, Emma Thompson, in the leading roles. 

Branagh and Thompson do double duty, playing multiple parts in two different time periods.  In a 1940s post war Los Angeles, they are Roman and Margaret Strauss.  Roman is a composer.  Margaret is a musician in his company.  They quickly fall in love and live in the limelight of glitz and glamour amid the gossip magazines of the time.  Their life together only becomes juicier when Roman is sentenced to death for the murder of Margaret.  The weapon of choice, a pair of scissors.

In present day 1991, Branagh portrays a private detective named Mike Church who ends up being responsible for an amnesiac, Thompson, who can’t even speak when she’s found.  The woman has unexplainable dreams that recall moments of Roman and Margaret’s life together only to end up as terrible nightmares.  A curious hypnotist (Derek Jacobi) enters the story to lend aid to Mr. Church and the woman.  He serves as a guide, bringing her back to the times of the celebrity couple, helping her to find clues that perhaps could lead to her true identity and uncover exactly why she is haunted by these dreams.

Additional characters enter the storyline as well.  There’s Wayne Knight as a humorous sidekick for Church.  In the flashback 1940s, there’s Andy Garcia as a handsome Pulitzer winning journalist who follows the escapades of Roman and Margaret.

Dead Again is not a long movie, and that lends to how good a film it is.  It’s a lean picture that sets up its clues the moment it starts.  Branagh gives you a background tutorial with newspaper headlines that flash up within the opening credits.  The two time periods are separated with the 1940s shown in gorgeous black and white, while the modern scenes are presented in color.  Branagh puts on a German accent for Roman.  Thompson is English for Margaret.  In the present day, they are Americans.  Of course, it is acknowledged that the respective characters look alike and that allows for possibilities of reincarnation, karma and past lives to enter the frame. 

The screenplay from Scott Frank gets you curious.  What connection could these two wildly different couples have with one another?  What don’t we know about the murder of Margaret at the hands of her husband, Roman?  Who really is the woman that Thompson is portraying in modern times?  How is it possible that a private dick like Mike would coincidentally end up with this “Margaret lookalike” amnesiac?

The cast is having a lot of fun with the puzzle, particularly Derek Jacobi.  His old English mannerisms offer a relaxing storyteller’s narrative to the film.  It feels as if his hypnotist carried over from an Alfred Hitchcock film.  I also appreciate how far apart the respective characters that Branagh and Thompson play.  Not only am I watching a thrilling mystery, but I’m looking at skilled, well-trained actors demonstrating a wide range of performance work.  At times, it’s as if I’m watching two different movies.  How exactly are they going to intersect, though?

I originally saw Dead Again in theatres and was taken with it immediately.  I did not see the end coming and when the veil was lifted, my eyes went wide open.  It has a terrific plot twist.  Branagh, known at the time as a celebrated Shakespearean actor/director, introduced a sweeping, mystery yarn that relishes in fun escapism like Hitchcock or Orson Wells would apply to film noir.  It only makes sense, looking back over thirty years later, why the director opted to turn his craft towards rejuvenating the classic Agatha Christie stories (Murder On The Orient Express, Death On The Nile) for film.  We are better for his contributions.

Now, Dead Again is a film that deserves the attention from a new generation of movie lovers.


By Marc S. Sanders

I got the urge to watch Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country after seeing the compelling HBO miniseries Chernobyl. The Star Trek franchise succeeds best when it applies current and true-life events to its fictional future set in the 23rd century.

Like the USSR, the savage Klingon empire suffers a terrible accident at one of their most powerful energy planets, that spirals them into possibly having only fifty years of life left to survive. Therefore, Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) reaches out to representing Ambassador Spock of Starfleet (Leonard Nimoy) to begin peace talks that will help prolong the alien race’s survival.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) however, is not so keen on the idea, especially after he blames them for the murder of his son. It turns out many other factions are not enthused either, as Gorkon is assassinated and Kirk and McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) are sentenced to an ice like Siberian prison planet.

There’s much to think about in the original Star Trek cast’s final film together. Beyond the sentiments of the crew retiring and the Enterprise being put out to pasture so to speak, there’s an interesting story to ponder about how we map out the future for upcoming generations when we are still living with the past that we’ve grown accustomed to. It’s telling, considering much of the real-life events happening twenty-two years into our new century with historical statues being removed and minorities fighting for fairness among their communities.

As well, is one country or people too proud and always wanting to be at odds with another by relishing in being a super power? Can we think beyond that nature? I think that’s maybe where the curious title, The Undiscovered Country, stems from. We just haven’t seen the possibility that could be truly within our reach, if we all wanted it that way.

Christopher Plummer plays Klingon General Chang who vows revenge for the assassination. Plummer is spectacular; a villain not recognized enough on all of those on line top 10 lists of bad guys. Plummer brings his theatrical training to the role as he relies on Shakespearean quotes to take in the scene at hand. He’s at least as good as Ricardo Montalban’s Khan is remembered.

The crew is adored as usual. The supporting cast are given their fair share of lines and moments in the spotlight. Kim Cattrall joins as a Vulcan Federation Officer who’s helpful to uncover the true criminals at play.

Director Nicholas Meyer contributed to the best of the Star Trek films, and this is a perfect example of his strength within the franchise. The story was partly conceived by Nimoy with Meyer credited on the screenplay. Cold War politics really lend to this film. It’s interesting to see how the Klingons are initially in denial of assistance or the desperate problem they face which is similar to Russia’s response following the horrifying nuclear accident at their power plant in Chernobyl. I just love how the ideas within The Undiscovered Country parallel the world’s response and effects of what was happening just a few years prior to this film’s release, in 1986.

Never let it be said that movies can’t teach you anything.

CAPE FEAR (1991)

By Marc S. Sanders

Would you ever think that Martin Scorsese could be a master of horror? I do. I thought so ever since I saw his remake of Cape Fear, back in 1991, featuring Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis. This cast of four is an astonishing assemblage of talent, complimented with players from the original film, Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, as well as Joe Don Baker, Fred Thompson and Illeana Douglas.

Wesley Strick is credited with this updated screenplay that questions the measure of sin; pot vs heroine, battery vs rape, flirting vs infidelity, as well as the ethics and justifications that we reason with every day.

DeNiro provides one of his greatest roles. He lost the Oscar in 1991 to Anthony Hopkins. Reader, DeNiro should have won for a much more complex, fleshed out part. He plays Max Cady, a man released from prison after a fourteen year stretch. His focus during his time was to learn how to read, build up his body, tattoo his flesh with the principals he inherited from the Almighty Bible and other literary sources, and most importantly reconnect with his defense attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte in one of his best roles, as well). Cady needs to remind Bowden of how he was misrepresented during his trial.

Strick’s screenplay is so smart. Smart because the antagonist never, ever makes an error, not until the end of the story. Cady’s intelligence is always one step above anyone else’s intuition and with the literal mechanics of the law beside him, Cady’s tactics come off very believably. Cady might come off as hokey, hillbilly white trash with ugly polyester clothing, a slicked back mullet and a fat, offensive cigar but he is a smart hunter who will weaken his victims before initiating his attack.

Bowden is a smart lawyer but he’s at a loss, and he does not have the support he needs from his family to protect himself and them, Jessica Lange as his wife and Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis as his daughter. Lange is very good as a wife who has survived marital turmoil of infidelity from her husband. She’s a marketing career woman who does not succumb to Sam as being head of the household. Sam asks that the dog not be put on the table and Lange as Leigh Bowden scoffs at his concern.

Fifteen years old at the time, Lewis is astonishing as a young girl discovering her sexuality but unsure of what is appropriate; almost like a kid finding a loaded weapon in a closet. One of the greatest acting sequences in the last thirty years, occurs between DeNiro and Lewis alone on a stage set against a sinister lighted Hansel & Gretel set. Lewis twitches and stutters like any girl would, as DeNiro assuredly comforts her and seduces her into a touch that leads to a kiss. Scorsese uses this midpoint scene to quiet down an aggressively frighteningly film, meticulously edited by the legendary Thelma Schoonmaker. Before this moment, telephone rings, shutters, racket balls, car engines, aggressive close-up zooms, and Elmer Bernstein’s horn and string sections of his orchestra startle you and scare you when almost nothing terribly vicious has really happened. When we arrive at Lewis and DeNiro’s scene, Scorsese quiets it all down. He needs no devices for this exchange of disturbing, yet researched dialogue by Strick, blended with the performance talents he has at his disposal.

Another stand out performance belongs to Illeana Douglas in a small, early role. She plays a court clerk to Bowden’s lawyer and they are flirtatious. Cady uses this as an opportunity to remind Bowden that he must take his sins seriously. Douglas is supreme in an inebriated scene with DeNiro as she flirts with him and then goes to bed with him. We can sense the danger she’s in. Douglas’ drunken portrayal cannot. Never does she look like she’s foreseeing her immediate future.

It’s ironic, really. I can’t help but compare Cape Fear to any one of the various slasher films featuring Jason, Freddy, Michael, etc. Those guys stalk the house or are seen from the distance at the end of the street. Those are horror films as well where an entity stalks a prey. Scorsese really has that here with Strick’s screenplay. However, Scorsese finds other ways than to just have the menace be…well the menace. He offers up an overabundance of fireworks behind Cady as he sits in Bowden’s backyard. He’s got Bernstein’s blaring horns and squealing strings for soundtrack, of course. He colors the palette of the sky above Bowden’s doomed house in bruised purples and blood reds. He even changes the perception of the Bowden family by showing what they are looking at in a sort of X-ray/black light like state. Are they seeing what they think they are seeing? Sure, Cady is stalking them, but in a given moment, are they just being paranoid by the disturbances Cady has cemented in their consciousness?

I’d imagine these are filmmaking inventions of Scorsese not specifically featured in Strick’s script. That’s what makes Martin Scorsese a director above so many others. He doesn’t just settle for the page. He won’t necessarily manipulate the script, but he won’t settle to just leave it at only what he reads. Cape Fear is a demonstration in unsettling, visual terror, and it’s worth revisiting for a look.


By Marc S. Sanders

Everyone remembers Anthony Hopkins’ memorable turn as the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of Lambs.  He was “Hannibal The Cannibal;” a renowned and brilliant psychiatrist who was eventually captured for being the one who ate his victims with sophisticated glee.  The real attraction, though, is how director Jonathan Demme delivers the film adaptation of Thomas Harris’ best selling novel through a lens that only finds one strong heroine amid a sea of intimidating men.  The heroine is the intuitive, but petite Clarice Starling.  The men are nearly everyone else cast in the film, and I mean everyone all the way down to the extras; the extras, here, are a perfect example how necessary they are towards any film’s palette.

Ever since the film was released in 1991, the dialogue of Ted Tally’s script is worthy of repeating and mimicking in social circles.  Lecter remains spoofed in nearly every pop culture medium.  Hopkins’ character is unforgettable and he’s been ranked among the greatest film villains of all time with the likes of Darth Vader and Harry Lyme.  It’s a worthy honor.  His timing is subtle and mischievous while he remains silently dangerous.  You can’t take your eyes off the actor and you can’t erase the devilishly fun and evil character from your sub conscious.  Opposite this performance though is Jodie Foster in a top billing role as an FBI trainee named Clarice Starling, assigned to interview and maybe study Lecter as a means to a solid lead in finding a serial killer that has been identified in the media as “Buffalo Bill.”  Bill has been skinning and killing girls with large physicalities, around the east to mid-west portion of the United States.

So, there is a detective story at play here as Hannibal aids Clarice in her search for the killer, but only under his rules.  Demme paints the film with Clarice ably performing her job no matter the towering strength or perverted fantasies found in nearly any man.  An outstanding image early on shows her small frame entering an elevator.  She has been summoned to her supervisor’s office from the outdoor obstacle course.  She is sweaty, and looking tired.  The elevator is full of a dozen men in red uniform polo shirts that hug every muscle; they are strong, fit and healthy.  Clarice stands front and center and she has no reluctance to stand among this exclusive group.  Later in the film, Clarice is invited by her supervisor, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn in a deservedly dark and quiet performance), to investigate one of Bill’s victims that turned up in the swampy waters of West Virginia.  The coroner’s examination room is filled to the max with sheriffs who believe they serve a purpose to stay there to witness what’s uncovered.  The strength of Clarice is really shown here as she shoos them away.  The men’s facial expressions tell us they don’t care for this request, but Clarice isn’t going to allow them to remain.  Most importantly are her encounters with the head of the Baltimore psychiatric ward that houses Lecter.  He is known as Dr. Chilton played by Anthony Heald.  Chilton – a great character name that clearly colors in the twisted perversion of this guy.  Chilton is happy to boast of his prized attraction, Lecter, as if he’s a rare tiger and he has no reluctance to hit on Clarice when she comes to visit with Lecter.  Always, Clarice will not allow herself to be succumbed, patronized or victimized by any of these towering figures of masculinity in what is unfairly regarded as a man’s world in law enforcement, crime or psychiatry.  Starling easily reminds Chilton that she was a student at the University of West Virginia, not a charm school.  With Tally’s script, Jodie Foster uses these deflective techniques of her character without effort.  Her methods of fencing with these men are a natural ability.  Even when she’s in film transition periods of training at the Academy, Clarice can maintain her stance against a hard-hitting male boxer pounding away at her boxing shield.  She just won’t fall over. As well, she doesn’t wince as the male students give her a glance from behind when she’s jogging on the grounds. 

Demme is an outstanding director who uses these interpretations of this woman to drive his film.  This very same year, 1991, Ridley Scott directed Thelma & Louise.  In that film, the title characters had to realize that they didn’t have to take any shit from a man.  They started out weak, though, and had no choice but to eventually get stronger.  Here, it’s already part of the woman’s instinctive nature. 

Hannibal Lecter is shown to be well versed in the finer things of art, literature, music and, forgive me, cuisine.  At one point, Demme focuses on a picture Lecter has sketched depicting Clarice in an almost angelic nature.  I’ve never forgotten that image.  Nearly all of the settings in The Silence Of The Lambs include stairways that always lead us in the down direction, to an assortment of various hells.  Clarice, the pure angel with nary a fault beyond limited experience as an FBI agent peels the onion away on her quest for a killer by entering into the treacherous depths beneath her; pits of hells.  The opening shot of the film has Clarice pulling herself up with a rope on an obstacle course as if she is ready to enter the heavens, ready to stand above everything, but then she is summoned to Crawford’s office located at the Department of Behavioral Sciences at the FBI.  She has to take an elevator down and then various stairways further down into a labyrinth of claustrophobic offices with no windows, surrounded by cinderblock and populated with men in uncharacteristic suits that don’t appear warm or cuddly.  Crawford may seem like her ally, but really, he’s using her as a sacrificial pawn on a chess board putting her in an arena with psychotically dangerous prisoners, in particular, the worst of them all, Hannibal The Cannibal. 

When Clarice goes to visit Hannibal, she is escorted by Dr. Chilton, who relishes in describing how careful he handles his prized thing, and willingly shows what this monster is truly capable of by providing an unwelcome photograph of how Lecter brutalized a female nurse.  This conversation is played upon a much more frightening descent of unlimited stairways and bars that clang loudly and are painted red and rusted, eventually leading to a stone walled dungeon for these unimaginable beings of death and perversion.  Clarice is left all alone to navigate her way down a long corridor until she reaches Lecter’s cell.

Yet, an even more frightening third descent into hell occurs in the final act as Clarice’s pursuit leads to Buffalo Bill.  Bill’s home is dark, lurid, filthy and maze like; but always seeming to go down further and further into one doorway after another and down one staircase after another, including a deep well where his latest victim is kept.  Like the other descents, Clarice uses her femineity as a tool of strength to survive.  I can claim without any hesitation that Clarice Starling is one of the greatest heroines in the history of film. 

The one man who rattles her, and weakens her, though is Hannibal Lecter.  Watch their tete a tete when they meet for the first time.  Starling demonstrates some overconfidence against Lecter’s seemingly polite demeanor.  With her white trash Virginia dialect, she even gets a little smarmy with the Doctor, but then he disarms her immediately with a comeback that shakes her very core.  Demme’s reliance on close ups for both characters serve this scene and others so well.  Clarice’s encounters with Hannibal are the most important and vital moments in the film because they are the only opportunities for Jonathan Demme and Ted Tally to show the main character’s weakness.  Every hero has to have a weakness if they are to remain compelling.  Clarice is not, in fact, undefeatable. 

The film could have simply worked as a basic detective story.  Put up the clues and the narration of the picture will eventually assemble all together for a resolution where the bad guy is captured.  Yet, Thomas Harris’ character creation uses Hannibal as a defiant obstacle blocking the path for Clarice.  Hannibal lacks much stimulation in a cold, specially designed prison cell.  He’s maybe only honored with impenetrable plexiglass to contain him as opposed to traditional bars.  He needs to be enthralled.  On the surface, Clarice appears as a frail prey that he can take his time munching on.  He’s happy to help Clarice catch Buffalo Bill with the case files she provides, but in exchange he wants to uncover what haunts her psyche.  Such a strong character Clarice is, but she has to be willing to weaken and expose herself to desperately find a dangerous killer.  Can she do it?  She’s never allowed herself to do that before.  And thus, we come to comprehend the obscure title of this film and the book it stems from.  (Anthony Hopkins actually thought it was a children’s fantasy when he was sent the script to read over.)

This write up is not necessarily a review, but a means to honor the careful film and storytelling technique that Jonathan Demme strives for with The Silence Of The Lambs.  You might say, yeah, there’s a lot of walking in this picture, but pay attention to the direction of the walking.  Always going down, somewhat reminiscent as Little Red Riding Hood entering a dark and spooky forest and encountering the biggest and baddest wolf.  Jodie Foster might be in a company of men here, but the film works as a dual of femineity vs masculinity.  It’s strange to believe that Demme actually had Michelle Pfeiffer in mind for the Starling role initially, a more than capable actress, but one who at the time was more glamourous (The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Witches Of Eastwick).  Beyond the silly Disney films, Foster was known for lurid pieces like Taxi Driver and her first Oscar winning role as a rape victim in The Accused.  Clarice Starling is a character beyond a pop culture appearance of the time, and Jodie Foster emanates that portrayal.

The writing of The Silence Of The Lambs is so intelligent.  There’s a witty, yet deliberately poor taste, of sarcasm to Hannibal Lecter as he thrives off his superior intellect over Jack Crawford and the FBI.  It’s only enhanced when he’s dealt a lowly, formally white trash female student to play with.  Ted Tally offers precise timing in the dialogue with Clarice and Hannibal.  Thomas Harris’ drive to further a cameo appearance of Lecter in a prior novel (Red Dragon) with this book is a gift to readers and eventually movie watchers.  The Silence Of The Lambs doesn’t follow formula with a Law & Order technique of ballistics and witness interviews.  It drives into other directions to feed its development. 

Jonathan Demme’s film is pioneering.  I recall seeing it in theatres with other high school friends.  I was not enthused to see it.  The title was too odd.  The picture was primarily a talking piece.  There were gross and unwelcome images within the film.  It’s very ugly at times.  I was frankly accustomed to the likes of Dirty Harry and Lethal Weapon films for my cops pursuing the robbers ideals.  I recall not even liking the film when we left, and I couldn’t comprehend its appeal that followed for the remainder of nearly an entire year, all the way up to when it was awarded the five main categories of Oscar wins (Actress, Actor, Screenplay, Director and Picture).  I definitely wasn’t accustomed to a strong character like Clarice.  Later that year, I saw Thelma & Louise and fell in love with their eventual triumph.  I needed to be spoon-fed their initial weaknesses at first.  Who was this Clarice in this picture, though?  I could not identify her strength that displayed right from the get go.  I wasn’t even 18 years old at the time and now I can say I just wasn’t mature enough for this film back in 1991.  Now, it’s thankfully clearer, though I still appreciate its subtlety so much. Jonathan Demme had such a clear vision of where he was taking this film and because it’s not dated, The Silence Of The Lambs stands as thriller, and an intelligent thought provoking piece that stays with you for a long time after each viewing.


By Marc S. Sanders

The strength of a good solid picture often depends on a strong cast from the top billing, above the title actors, to the bit supporting players who only have a few minutes of screen time.  Thelma & Louise, directed by Ridley Scott, is that film.  The opening credits of the movie come up in black and white over an out west landscape with an endless dirt road in the center of the screen.  Hans Zimmer’s harmonica and banjo, country sounds build on Scott’s camera work here.  The names of each actor are brought up: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Christopher MacDonald, Michael Madsen, Stephen Tobolowsky, and someone named Brad Pitt. The scene goes to color and then it blacks out and comes up on Louise’s (Sarandon) crowded diner where she waitresses.  Nothing is unfamiliar here.  Yet, it seems a little haunting in a way.  We are about to uncover a history to some common folk who live on the southern bend of America, and we will start in the state of Arkansas.

Louise has made arrangements with her best friend Thelma (Davis) to do a weekend cross country road trip to a cabin in the woods.  This is the southern odd couple.  Louise is always put together, clean and organized.  She’ll check herself in the mirror.  In a crowded ladies room, she’ll check her makeup and tidy her hair while intoxicated patrons are pushing around behind her.  Thelma is scatterbrained.  She’ll bite off a piece of a candy bar, put it back in the freezer and make three more stops back at the freezer for a couple of more bites.  She also will dump a dresser drawer of clothes into a suitcase, taking no time to sort through what she’s packing.

Both women have been treated unfairly by the men in their lives.  Thelma’s husband, Daryl (MacDonald) is a proud white trash carpet sales manager who treats his wife with absolute control, complete disregard and thoughtless disdain.  Louise just can’t even get a hold of her boyfriend Jimmy (Madsen), a musician who can’t commit to anything.  On the first night of their trip, the two ladies hit the road in an iconic 1966 green Ford Thunderbird convertible (one of the greatest, most memorable vehicles in film screen history), they’ll realize there may be worse men than the ones they’ve encountered.  Following an attempted rape, a shooting occurs and the ladies are hitting the road, hoping to make it to Mexico.

Thelma & Louise is at least Ridley Scott’s most sensitive film.  It was not the first or last time he used women as leads in his pictures.  Yet, the film moves symbolically along the stretches of highway and dirt roads as a means to reveal the strength and confidence a woman can have when she escapes the controlling shadow of a man.  At least that’s what I think.  The beginning of Scott’s film, with an Academy Award winning script from Callie Khouri, displays the title characters as weighed down by their past and current lives.  It is only when the two break free (with little options following an unforeseen dilemma) they understand they can be stronger than any man who’s ever dominated them before.  As the road trip moves on, they will encounter more hang ups and they will make mistakes, but by the time the third act comes along Thelma and Louise will sever any restraints that have held them back before.  It is such a gratifying story.

My father encouraged me to go see this movie with him.  It was 1991.  I was graduating high school.  I’d seen trailers for this picture and it was loaded with high energy country music.  I don’t like country music, typically.  In fact, I only can like country music when it is incorporated into a film.  Thelma & Louise is the best example of that feeling.  I hated the title.  Still kind of do.  It doesn’t have the ring of say Starskey & Hutch or Batman & Robin.  However, those are guy pairings.  Thelma & Louise are about two women, and I was never going to forget that.  Once I saw the film, I could not stop thinking about it.  I grew so accustomed to Ridley Scott’s direction and use of cinematography with Adrian Biddle.  The sun on the screen felt hot.  The dirt on the character’s faces and the Thurderbird felt gritty.  The sunburns on Sarandon and Davis felt sore and dry.  The glow of the car’s dashboard light felt bright in my vision. The settings spoke to me.  There’s a great moment where Louise seems to shed her feminine and dainty skin so to speak.  She hands over her jewelry to an old timer sitting on the side of road at an abandoned truck stop.  No words are shared between them.  This guy was born on this spot.  He’s never moved from this spot and Louise will leave her history behind with him.  Later, as the stakes grow, with the FBI and law enforcement closing in on the fugitives, there’s a moment where Thelma tells Louise, that she feels awake; like really awake and alert.  I knew what she was talking about.  I’ve already been on this hike for two hours with these characters, along with the crimes and entanglements they’ve gotten into and the movie has my full attention.  All these years later with repeated viewings, and I still feel that way.  I feel absolutely awake the moment the movie begins.

Khouri supplies her script with a variety of men.  Some are sensitive like the detective played by Keitel who knows that a murder didn’t just happen maliciously.  There’s more to the circumstances at play, and he’s hoping for the best for the ladies.  Some are just procedural like Tobolosky, who doesn’t recognize them as women, only as fugitives. Some are enlightening, yet deceptive like Brad Pitt’s hitch hiking handsome and charming loner that the ladies pick up, and some are simply cruel and vicious, like the rapist or Thelma’s husband, Daryl (MacDonald).  Maybe a trucker along the way is like that as well.  How will Thelma and Louise respond to each of these guys?  As the story contains a gamut of what all these men are, I never regard the picture as a middle finger protest to the male population.  Not at all.  There are men who will give women a chance and will treat them with respect and at least equality, within their surroundings.  Khouri’s script allows time for that.  Sadly though, thirty years later there are still men who will treat women like punching bags with no value and esteem.  It’s wrong.  It’s why the “Me Too” movement had to eventually come into play, long after the release of this picture. 

At the risk of sounding political with potential for debate and preach, watching Thelma & Louise last week, I could not help but think of recent current events that have occurred in mid year 2021.  Bill Cosby was set free from his prison sentence following a technicality that justified his release, but never exonerated him of his crimes of rape.  A former kid actor named Drake Bell was sentenced to three years’ probation for sending sexually explicit materials and texts to an underage girl.  More physical details have been implied on that relationship but Bell was never charged with anything on that topic.  Hence, no jail time.  A Disney channel actor has a warrant out for his arrest following missing a court date with similar charges as Bell.  Following the early rape scene in this film, the attacker is shot and killed in a parking lot.  The ladies consider going to the police and explaining what exactly happened, but they choose to run.  Why?  Because, they know that the police would never believe them.  They were witnessed minutes earlier drinking and partying with this guy in a bar.  Why would anyone believe he would try to rape one of them?  Reader, I know what they mean.  I understand.  Each time I watch the movie, I truly understand.  I know what Thelma and Louise are talking about.  It’s sad.  It’s wrong.  It infuriates me because it’s so unfair.

Callie Khouri and Ridley Scott created an outstanding adventure picture with suspense, and lots of natural humor by means of the outlaw way like Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.  A surprising robbery midway through the picture is hilarious and serves as a legit character change for Thelma.  Davis is great here.  She has scenes of drama and fear throughout the movie, but she also has time for laugh out loud moments.  Alternatively, the Louise character that Sarandon portrays seems to hinge on the dramatic element.  I love a hanging thread that Khouri weaves into the script of an unknown traumatic occurrence that happened in Louise’s past.  I am certain that Sarandon knows what it is even if the audience doesn’t entirely know.  Later in the film, the humor that Louise encounters comes through as Thelma transitions over to a new kind of personality.  These women don’t change individually.  They change together.  It’s a great couple dynamic for sure.

The film is sexy and at times sweet as well.  Yet, it’s also very terrifying, with very real drama.  Thelma & Louise is an important picture to see.  I plan to show it to my teenage daughter when she is a little older.  The rape scene holds me back right now as I find it hard to watch and requires a mature eye.  Nonetheless, I want her to be aware of what is out there.  I want her to know how people, men in particular, respond and treat women.   I want her to be alert and strong when faced with any kind of adversity, deserved or not; justified or not.  I find that some movies offer the best lessons of life about the cruelty and kindness of the world.  Most especially when they are filmed with sensitivity and authenticity, like Schindler’s List or The Shawshank Redemption.  Countless viewings later with thirty years behind it, and I still learn from Thelma & Louise.  It’s another one of my favorite movies.