Thelma & Louise is a 1991 film directed by Ridley Scott; his seventh feature film. Unlike his previous films, which are largely genre films with a psychological core — two men's differing reasons for a mania for dueling, the inner life of an artificial man, &c. — this one is a straightforward moralizing homily, specifically an invective against women's rights.
The plot can be summarized as follows: two women go on a weekend road trip together; as soon as they are out of the control of their husband and boyfriend respectively (the former archetypally oafish, the latter equally-archetypally shiftless) they immediately begin behaving in a maximally irrational, self-destructive way, obliterating their own lives with absolutely astonishing speed. This indeed appears to be the purpose of their symbolically, emblematically worthless other halves: even these absolute dregs of manhood, Scott is saying, were still competent enough to prevent their women's self-immolation, which would otherwise be so near instantaneous that the difference is not worth measuring.
Perhaps you do not believe me. I will give a fuller outline of the events of the film, which you must forgive for being of course one long spoiler:
- Thelma and Louise, two Arkansunians, depart on a fishing trip in Louise's extremely identifiable (turquoise!) car. Thelma steals her husband's gun for no apparent reason.
- They stop at a bar or roadhouse or something in the evening; Thelma gets inadvisably drunk and, animated by self-destructive carnality, dances inadvisably insistently with an obvious rapist.
- The obvious rapist, true to his native gods, attempts to rape Thelma; Louise threatens him with the gun, and he lays off. However, he then makes an unsavory remark while leaving without further harm, which causes Louise to blast him anyway(!).
- The two women decide to flee to Mexico(?!) but not by the obvious, fast route through Texas: no, they're going around(!?).
- They do not replace the extremely recognizable car, e.g. by taking the dead rapist's car or trading Louise's for a less conspicuous one, or selling it and buying plane tickets. The car is shortly identified to the police by other roadhouse boozers.
- They pick up a hitchhiker, which I guess is fair since he looks exactly like a young Brad Pitt; however, when it transpires that he is a fugitive after having committed an armed robbery, they do not care about this.
- Louise asks her boyfriend to wire her her entire life savings; for some reason he shows up with the money in person instead(!?) and proposes marriage to her(?!?), which she turns down, presumably aware that life without parole is more or less her best hope at this point.
- Thelma's evidently-pessimal lusts (witness her baffling clod husband) once again kick in to do herself and Louise mischief, as she sleeps with Armed Robber Brad Pitt, then immediately leaves him alone with all of Louise's money; he, of course, robs them of the money and skedaddles.
- In a spasmodic attack of even heretofore unmatched irrationality, Thelma holds up a gas station for cash using newly-acquired armed robbery techniques(!!) and she and Louise continue on their circuit of Texas.
- A cop played by Harvey Keitel manages to talk to Louise on the phone; he tells her that they should turn themselves in, since he can almost certainly frame the situation as self-defense(!!!). Louise refuses to take this advice(!!?!?) and instead tells him unprompted that she did not shoot the rapist in self-defense at all(???!?!?!?!!?!!!!!!!). She and Thelma stick to Plan: Flee to Mexico As Slowly As Possible.
- They still do not ditch their fucking car!
- They get pulled over for speeding by a highway patrolman; since they realize that as soon as he checks their license plate number the entire cavalry of everywhere will crawl directly up their asses, they lock him in the trunk of his car, in the middle of the desert. Although we subsequently see that the cop survives, this must nevertheless be classed as another murder attempt. (Also, as if to drive home how unbelievably stupid Louise is, in this scene Thelma tells Louise to shoot out the cop's radio; she shoots his regular music radio instead of his CB unit. HYUCK!)
- The car, which is now identifiable and identified in every conceivable way, is retained; they don't even remove the plates, or replace them with the cop car's plates or anything.
- A trucker makes obscene remarks as they pass him on the highway, so they shoot at his truck, a fuel tanker; by Hollywood logic, it explodes, but our heroines are also Hollywood logicians and were apparently intending this exact outcome. The idea being, presumably, that he will now, prompted by gratitude, make fewer vulgar remarks at them.
- The entire cavalry of everywhere predictably corner the two swivel-eyed loons, including Harvey Coptel, who tries to talk them down again. Rather than surrendering, despite the fact that even now the main cop is 100% on their side in spite of Louise's confession of wholly unprompted, absolutely legally indefensible murder, the two of them drive off a cliff into the Grand Canyon. To the bitter end, a man runs after them trying to stop all this crazy shit.
- Outro montage of their vacation pics.
I cannot stress enough that this outline is not hyperbolic, exaggerated or twisted; it is absolutely true to the actual contents of the film and leaves out nothing of importance. At no point in this entire film does either of the two main characters make one single sensible decision, say anything rational, or behave as though she even inhabits reality. At the same time, they are both portrayed as completely normal women. This whole absolutely unhinged maniacal fugue is apparently just what Ridley Scott thinks women are actually like if they're not constantly under the thumb of men. He makes Flaubert and his Bovary look positively normal — and that's a novel written to vindicate the 18th century idea that women shouldn't be allowed to read novels, because it makes them go insane!
Here in 2023, it's hard to imagine that in 1991 there still existed a director in Hollywood this grossly, aggressively misogynistic, that he was allowed to make a Red Dawn-esque warning against the evils of circa-1920 progressive ideology without anybody stopping him halfway through, and that (unlike Milius) he did not get effectively blacklisted for it afterwards. In fact, this man is still a celebrated part of the Hollywood establishment and actually released another film about rape just two years ago! It's unbelievable. But here we are. The screenwriter won an Oscar for this film.