Thelma & Louise (Blu-ray)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Billed as the 20th anniversary edition, Thelma & Louise arrives on Blu-ray essentially as a repackaged copy of the 2002 DVD release, albeit with an enhanced high-def feature presentation. That anniversary labeling is a little disingenuous since there's nothing new on the disc itself celebrating that milestone, but at least the movie still packs a punch... and a gun... and lipstick.
Dickinson & Sawyer
It's been 20 years and there's still only one Thelma & Louise. The movie's held up well thanks to Callie Khouri's Oscar-winning screenplay. It's an original, one that spins the good ol' buddy movie with female leads and a storyline that offers more social commentary than the typical road/revenge romp.
Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis, Beetlejuice) and Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon, Enchanted) are two women trapped in miserable relationships, the kind that have made their entire lives miserable. Thelma's a housewife married to a carpet salesman who works a lot of late nights and Louise is a waitress who's stuck with a guy who only shows signs of commitment when she has one foot out the door.
What starts out as a simple weekend getaway for the two ladies – and an escape from their domestic trappings – quickly turns sour when Thelma's raped outside a cowboy bar and Louise shoots and kills the man out of retribution.
As their lives unravel through a number of exacerbating situations and missteps, the two women find liberation while on the lam.
One of the most interesting aspects of watching Thelma & Louise now is stepping back and considering the firestorm of press coverage the movie received upon its theatrical release; it's well documented in the Blu-ray's supplemental materials. That was May 1991. Come Oscar time, it garnered six nominations, including lead actress nominations for both Sarandon and Davis as well as a directing nod for Scott.
Watching it now, the hands of kismet are even more apparent.
Scott puts his signature on the visual style. Hans Zimmer composes yet another terrific score. But more importantly, the chemistry between Sarandon and Davis is undeniable.
They vacilate between sweet and sour perfectly. Thelma's naivete gives way to pure independence with complete credibility thanks to Davis' deft handling of the role. At the same time, Sarandon takes Louise from the dominant character to one who becomes increasingly less assured about where she's going and what she's doing.
On top of all that, Thelma & Louise introduced Brad Pitt to the world at large.
Intended as a comedy (amid the chaos of being on the run, Louise chastises, "Thelma, don't you litter!"), the movie covers a considerable amount of uncomfortable material, including rape, murder, robbery, and sexism of all sorts.
And it works.
Many movies have tried that mix with dreary results. Most recently, The Dilemma attempted to be funny and dramatic, but it turned out to be neither.
As for the sexism, the message is still valid 20 years later.
Take a look at the work of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, two guys who receive plenty of accolades for their disjointed look at women, whether it be with humorous intent or otherwise. It was up to Thelma and Louise to call out those dominant, continuous double standards.
Thelma & Louise gives women some cinematic retribution. And it throws in a message of cold, hard reality: "You get what you settle for."
And, of course, there's the ending. It's one of moviedom's best.
Thelma & Louise is reasonably priced as a Blu-ray catalog title with a $19.99 SRP. Given the lack of new value-added material, one question must be asked: Could anything else be said about the movie that wasn't included between the two commentaries and hour-long documentary found on previous home video releases? Well, the answer is yes. Simply check out the March 2011 issue of Vanity Fair that recaps the whole behind-the-scenes saga with some new material, and a brand new Annie Leibovitz glamour shot of Sarandon and Davis.
Aside from the dearth of anything new on this release, the real disappointment is the shoddy, low-def quality of the supplemental materials. Since the video segments are pushing 10 years old, it's not surprising. Part of the problem might lie in the full-screen, 1.78:1 presentation of material that was created in the days of 1.33:1 TV sets. While there's some flashback fun to be had in watching old-school supplementals, at this point in the Blu-ray lifecycle a little cleanup and remastering should've been performed, especially to salute the 20th anniversary.
Also, given prior releases included things like a photo gallery and a hardcopy booklet, this release can't really be called a definitive package.
As it stands, here's the full rundown:
Ridley Scott provides a solid running commentary, albeit one that was recorded for the 1997 DVD release. Scott backs up and provides a brief career rundown in order to emphasize the notion that Thelma & Louise was, at the time, an unlikely movie for Scott to direct. While attached to the project as a producer, he had already been pigeon-holed as an atmospheric, visually-astute director of movies like Alien and Blade Runner. At the time of recording, Scott had just finished G.I. Jane and he also mentions his then-current project, I Am Legend (which, 10 years later, was finally released with Francis Lawrence at the helm and Will Smith as the star). Listening to a Ridley Scott commentary is always entertaining and informative and this one's no exception. Of particular interest is Scott's involvement with the writing process and the priority placed on locking down the story.
A second running commentary, by Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, and Callie Khouri, was recorded for the 2002 DVD. As with Scott's commentary, it's plenty informative. It also packs an unusual amount of entertainment value as the trio point out the movie's quirks. Among the interesting tidbits is Khouri briefly explaining the personal little moments that possibly served as the basis for the movie, which, she also notes, is wholly a work of fiction. Write what you know, but also write what you don't know with emotional truth, Khouri recommends. (For more details on Khouri's "personal little moments," read the Vanity Fair article.)
Thelma & Louise: The Last Journey is a well-done 60-minute documentary about the making of the movie. The best part looks back on the wild critical reactions, running the gamut from raves to rage. What now plays out so sensibly was vilified by some as a male-bashing piece of trash that was a harbinger of the end of American civilization.
There's plenty of overlap between the two commentaries and The Last Journey, but each serves as a valid, solid supplement.
The Theatrical Featurette can be viewed with an optional promotional narration. It's the standard behind-the-scenes featurette. (5 minutes)
The Extended Ending can be viewed with an optional commentary by Scott, explaining why this version was not in the final cut. (4.5 minutes)
There's also an extensive collection of Deleted and Extended Scenes. All told, this section includes 16 scenes covering a whopping 40 minutes. While it's mostly excess details footage from a scratchy, pock-marked rough cut, there are some interesting moments sprinkled throughout. There are four particularly noteworthy scenes:
- "Hal on the Case" shows Hal running through the sprinklers while walking up to Darryl's place. It's simply a goofy little scene that's worth a chuckle.
- "Second Motel" finds Louise talking things through with Jimmy one last time; it provides a lot more detail about their rocky relationship.
- In "Thelma and J.D.," Thelma gets additional robbery tips from J.D. and it serves as good backup material for what Thelma does in the market later in the story.
- In "Hal at Home," Catherine Keener makes an appearance as Hal's wife; he asks her if she could think of any situation in which she would find herself taking a person's life.
Multi-angle Storyboards: The Final Chase is a good idea with low-tech execution. "Angle 1" is the movie's climax as seen in Sherman Labby's storyboards, including captions. Viewed separately, "Angle 2" is the same sequence with the storyboards sans captions in the top half of the screen and the film in the bottom half. (4.5 minutes each)
Glenn Frey's music video for Part of You, Part of Me is also included for fans of the song. (4.5 minutes)
Rounding out the package is a collection of Trailer & TV Spots. There's the original trailer, three TV commercials, and a home video preview. The latter was intended for retail and rental outlets back in the '90s and it serves as something like a marketing and box office retrospective that helps put the power of inflation in some perspective. The segment makes note of the movie's $9 million marketing campaign and its hefty $43 million box office tally. (11 minutes total)
None of the supplements are exclusive to this release.
Picture and Sound
The feature presentation looks great. The only things giving away the film's age are those hairdos, the ubiquity of pay phones instead of cell phones, and that Polaroid camera.
The audio is also a solid presentation of a 1991 film soundtrack, but even though it's a full-blown 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track, it's still front-heavy with little output for the rear speakers.
The Blu-ray jacket shortchanges the specs in the languages department. Alternate audio options in 5.1 Dolby Digital are Spanish and Portuguese and there are also 5.1 DTS tracks in French, German, and Italian.
Subtitles are available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Danish, Suomi, German, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, and two Chinese dialects.
How to Use This Disc
Of course, enjoy the classic adventures of Thelma and Louise. For those inclined to a little home schooling in film, check out Scott's audio commentary. Also, the four deleted scenes noted above are certainly worth a look.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.