Thelma & Louise was a magnet for issue-fanciers. It colonised cultural review shows, furrowed academic brows.
Some saw it as feminism in the driving seat, others as a pessimistic exchange of one set of male-drawn clichés (the oppressed woman-as-cipher) for another (women with guns letting make-up slip, blowing shit up and suffering for it).
For Scott, though, it was plot and performance that took the wheel. Politics were merely a buzz-generating bonus, churned up in the wake of a friendship-and-freedom fable with a full tank of vivid characterisation.
On paper it isn’t much more than Butch and Sundance in a T-Bird. After leaving town to let their hair down, two women burn rubber between themselves and their menfolk when Louise (Susan Sarandon) guns down a greaseball who assaults Thelma (Geena Davis). Old-school ‘odd couple on the lam’ pedal-slamming follows.
But Davis and Sarandon steer it into focus with alive and unpredictable turns. Davis pops with just-freed pep, especially after a lusty Brad Pitt-stop; Sarandon lets a history of hurt speak silent volumes between life-hardened lines.
It’s the nuances of their friendship that drive the film, not the women-vs-men subtexts. Whether blowing up a sleazebag’s tanker or banging up a copper in a car boot, Scott and his leads have fun with the latter, making T&La rarity on his CV: a comedy brimming with energised exuberance, proving he can do anything if he’s got secure foundations.
It gets dark, true, but Scott never neglects T&L’s exultation. Even the final lunge cuts on the take-off point, poised between freedom and fatality, its ambiguity mirroring the flights into the unknown that closed Alien and Blade Runner.