Publication Date: June 2017
Review, short version: Four roses out of a possible four.
The movie Thelma & Louise came out in 1991, and while I remembered bits and pieces of it, what stayed with me was the ending.
The ending stunned me. Flummoxed me. And yes – disappointed me.
After keeping me thoroughly engaged throughout, Thelma & Louise, at the end, left me shaking my head and thinking, “Why?” And then, “Why did I watch this?”
I admit – I’m a person who likes happy endings. A bad ending to a movie, book, short story, any story, can spoil the whole experience for me.
But after reading Becky Aikman’s Off the Cliff, I realized the ending of Thelma & Louise wasn’t a “bad” ending.
It just wasn’t the ending I wanted – for Thelma, for Louise, for any woman who resists “the place they’d been dealt in society,” as Aikman puts it.
Off the Cliff tells the story about the creation, production and aftermath of Thelma & Louise on several levels. One is a fascinating tale of an unknown – Callie Khouri – writing a screenplay (her first), for a movie unlike anything Hollywood had seen, and therefore unlikely ever to make it to the screen. The behind-the-scenes recounting of how Thelma & Louise was made and who was involved would make a good movie on its own.
On another level, we learn more reasons why Thelma & Louise should have been a non-starter. It’s a buddies-on-the-road movie but with two women instead of two men – unheard of in the 1990s (or 80s or 70s, etc.). The women evolve, when the norm was male characters evolving while women remained window dressing. There is violence – another no-no for chick flicks – some perpetrated against, and some by, Thelma and Louise.
Khouri and the handful of others who believed in the movie were vindicated:
- It received a slew of awards, and was celebrated on the 10th, 20th and 25th anniversaries of its release. How many movies get all that?
- Less than a month after its release, the movie was the Time cover story. That generally happens…nearly never.
- Thelma & Louise stirred, and continues to stir, controversy – and how often are movies still debated a quarter century after their creation?
Aikman is a good storyteller, drawing, according to the book jacket, from “130 exclusive interviews with the key players from this remarkable cast of actors, writers and filmmakers.” Her insights are an important part of Off the Cliff, especially those about
how far women have – and mostly haven’t – progressed in Hollywood.
And the timing of the book is amazing, coming as it does in sync with the ever-growing number of stories about sexual harassment – and worse – by men in show business. And elsewhere.
If you haven’t seen Thelma & Louise, see it. Then read Off the Cliff, and you’ll see it even better.