The film ‘Thelma and Louise’ is hybrid, whereby it is split up into two parts. The two parts are Western and melodrama, because there is a Western feel, but the way in which there are female main characters instead of male main characters enforces the film to be based more on relationships and friendship. The audience can therefore understand themselves a bit better towards the end of the film.
The director, Ridley Scott, has influenced the western feel to this film by the props used i. e. owboy hats, the accents of the characters, the costumes, the country style music in which the characters line dance to, the landscape at the beginning while the credits role and the shooting by Louise, which implements the storyline to the film to become more interesting. However, Louise’s immediate reaction to the shooting is different to the reaction of James Bond, whereby she shakily lowers the gun and shows her guilt in her facial expressions. The transport used in the film are sporty convertibles and it is fairly modern, which is a suggestion of the contemporary feel throughout.
Also the use of modern transport dilutes some of the western feel to the film. The central characters in the film are two middle-aged women called ‘Thelma and Louise’. Their characters are represented as been women more involved in their love life and relationships, who believe that you can’t be happy without a man in your life. The opening shot of the film is of a typical American landscape, while slow, sad music plays in the background, on a slide electic guitar. As the camera pans across the landscape the credits appear on the screen in white block capitals, the font and style used for the film makes it seem more like a classic novel film.
The camera continues to pan accross to reveal a dust track road, which signifies the journey that Thelma and Louise are going to endure. A sound bridge is used as the director’s name appears and the song ‘Little honey are you going out tonight ‘ is played to enforce this. The song used is significant, whereby it gives an insight to Thelma’s character, in which she is a housewife and she has a very possessive husband, Daryl, who won’t let her go anywhere without his permission.
The actual opening shot of the film is of the diner, where Louise, played by Susan Sarondan, works as a waitress. Louise is centrally placed on the screen, there is white spotlight on her and the corner of the counter where she is stood angles towards her; therefore draws the audience’s eyes directly to her. In the background there are lots of customers and the noise they make, suggests that it is busy. The viewers constantly focus on Louise, because when she moves the camera follows her and keeps her centrally placed at all times. Firstly Louise talks to two customers who are friends.
The girls are smoking and it is here where Louise motherly attitude is revealed, whereby she says ‘you girls are a little young to be smoking don’t you think, it ruins your sex drive’. In saying this she suggests to the girls that they are to young to smoke, but old enough to have sex, which is a contradiction and this motherly aspect of Louise’s character is also shown when she speaks to Thelma later in the film. As Louise speaks the camera cuts from one girl to another, therefore showing whom she is speaking to. During this shot a close-up of Louise’s working uniform is shown.
It is a crisp white nursing uniform and this is significant, because it doesn’t serve a purpose, it suggests femininity. After this shot the camera cuts directly to Louise smoking at the back of the diner. There are people behind her working, but there are just women, not men to again suggest the femininity of the film. Louise picks up the phone and then the camera immediately cuts to Thelma played by Gina Davis in her home. The dim light from the window silhouettes Thelma; therefore the audience can barely make her out, which is a big contrast from Louise.
The phone rings and Thelma knows that Louise is ringing her because she insists that she picks up the phone and Thelma shows that she is afraid of her husband, Daryl, by speaking at almost whisper level, so that he doesn’t hear her. Thelma and Louise’s characters are different in personality and this is shown when they pick up the phone and hold it on a different ear, like a mirrored effect. Louise throws the door back in frustration while she is talking to Thelma to get away from the noise in the background and suggests that she is annoyed with Thelma for not asking Daryl if she could go away for the weekend.
There are sound differences, which are that in Thelma’s house everything is quiet, whereas in the diner there is noise from the workers and the customers; therefore it is loud. Louise tells Thelma to ‘stop being such a child’ and her motherly attitude is reflected again. In most of these scenes there are some men introduced, but they are pioneered slowly and are kept in the background. Louise jokily tells Thelma to just tell Daryl that she is going with her because she is having a nervous breakdown.
This is significant because then she blows kisses at the fish in the tank and this confirms that perhaps she is having a nervous breakdown or it could also reflect the distance between Thelma and Daryl, whereby Thelma never seems to receive any affection form Daryl. Thelma asks if Louise is at work and Louise says sarcastically that she is at the playboy mansion, this suggests that she is tired of work and shows her lack of satisfaction concerning her love life. Thelma then puts the phone down and says that she will call her back, because she thinks that her husband is listening.
However she realises that he isn’t when she cautiously calls his name. Daryl then enters the room and Thelma fastens his cuffs on his shirt and brings him some coffee, which suggests that Daryl can’t do anything himself and that this is a daily occurrence. There is a black heart with pink frill on the fridge, which symbolizes that there is no love in Thelma’s marriage and also the fact that it is on the fridge suggests the coldness in their relationship. The audience waits in anticipation for Thelma to ask Daryl if she can go away for the weekend, but when she gets the opportunity she stutters and doesn’t ask him the question intended.
Daryl brushes his hair in the kitchen and looks in the mirror a lot, this suggests that he self obsessed, vain and unhygienic. Thelma asks him if he wants anything special for tea and he rudely replies that he doesn’t care what they have; therefore Thelma feels rejected and she turns her back on him to symbolize this. She seems to gain confidence after the rejection and she demonstrates that she know that Daryl is sleeping around, in which she comments about the number of carpets he sells at the weekend. Daryl then swings his keys and implies that he is the boss at work; therefore implying that he is also the boss of Thelma.
He also swings the keys like he is holding a gun and at the same time points his finger to look like a gun, which echoes the shooting scene. The next shot is of Daryl walking towards his car. Ellipses are used from when he finishes his conversation with Thelma to when he walks down the drive. Daryl has a great sense of pride and doesn’t like to be late; this is shown in the way that he continuously looks at his watch and the way that he shouts at the gardeners for tripping up over their tools. He talks to himself as well which suggests that he is self-absorbed and he uses blasphemy in every sentence, which could be offensive.
When Daryl has left Thelma phones Louise again and a middle-aged man answers who is presented as been charming and he obviously has a soft spot for Thelma, the way he treats Thelma is completely different to the way that Daryl does. Louise is in the background and she monitors the conversation; therefore she saves Thelma from the man. There are six cuts in this scene and Thelma tends to open and close the fridge a lot, because she can’t prevent herself from eating the chocolate bar, this shows that she can be indecisive and doesn’t have a mind of her own, due to been married to Daryl.
Also the way that she opens and closes the fridge suggests that due Thelma been confined to home all the time, she has countless amounts of restless energy. Thelma decides to go away for the weekend in this scene and arranges to be picked up at 4 o clock, then puts the phone down. The next shot is of Louise leaving the diner and as she steps off the pavement the country music begins again. She is driving an open topped car and the headscarf that she is wearing is the blue, the same colour of the car. The next scene is the packing scene, which uses montage editing and there are 13 cuts between Thelma’s bedroom and Louise’s bedroom.
Louise is firstly shown silhouetted by the light from the window, like Thelma was at the beginning. There are two sinks in Louise’s bathroom, which suggests cleanliness. Louise phones Jimmy her boyfriend to tell him that she is going away. Louise shows that Jimmy is her boyfriend by when she receives his answering machine; she places his picture face down. Louise seems to know what she is doing with her life, but has moments of indecision, which is shown by the way in which she stares in the mirror dissatisfied with herself.
This action is reflected later on in the film where she looks in the mirror to re-apply her lipstick and realizes that she can’t be bothered anymore and so she throws it away. Also Thelma uses this action with the car mirror, when she looks at the cowboy, played by Brad Pitt and finally discovers her sexuality, which is a similarity between her and Louise. When Jimmy’s voice is on the answering machine all he says is ‘I’m not here’, which is an indication that men are never there for Louise. In Thelma’s bedroom there’s pink and blue wallpaper, which is floral pattern and symbolizes business.
Thelma picks up the gun with her thumb and index finger to suggest that it is dirty. Immediately after that shot Louise is shown cleaning a glass, which adds to the dirtiness of the gun. The packing scene ends and the music stops. The next shot is of Louise pulling up in her car to pick Thelma up. Louise is dressed practically in jeans and t-shirt and she is wearing her hair up in a headscarf, whereas Thelma is dressed feminine and is wearing a skirt, blouse and denim jacket, which is a big contrast from the beginning.
Thelma packs everything that she owns and she is obviously trying to escape from Daryl. Also she brings a lamp and jokes about how there may be psycho killers, this implies that she may be afraid of the dark and foreshadows what is about to happen. Thelma steals Daryl’s fishing tackle; therefore this is her first crime and she doesn’t seem phased by it and it is a suggestion that she won’t be afraid to do it again and eventually she does.
Thelma believes that she is running away from a fatherly figure, Daryl, but she is actually leaving with a motherly figure friend, Louise, this is shown by the way that Louise repeats ‘Be careful’ to Thelma. The last shot is the freeze frame, when the picture is taken and the freeze frame signifies this. This is an important part of the film, because this is the picture, which is blown away at the end, just before they decide to drive the car over the edge of the Grand Canyon.