SUSAN SURANDON as Louise Sawyer in THELMA & LOUISE
DEAD MAN WALKING was terrific acting, another great example of a brilliant duo (w/ Sean Penn – in his best work along side MILK) and there are moments in ATLANTIC CITY; that overused popularized signature moment (The lemons in the window) but the role that utilized all of what we love about Susan Surandon as a persona and an actress was her courageous, tough, and yet vulnerable Louise Sawyer in THELMA & LOUISE. A role which she not only inhabited but as far as I’m concerned but created some of the best film acting, non-dialogue moments ever. It transcended acting. It was a spiritual journey that only a precise thinking actor could find the truth in. She’s smart, fiery, sexy, attentive, scolding yet nurturing, determined with still have her wry sense of truth in her sarcastic humor. That knowing laugh. Louise Sawyer seems to be the role that captured the hearts of America, critics and gave her career the boost that keep her in quality films for several years that followed. She deserved the rain of blessings she received in the 90’s. A gifted, angry with good reason, beautiful and always surprising Susan Sarandon.
We know the story…of THELMA & LOUISE.
Sarandon plays Thelma's pal Louise, a waitress who is pushing forty and fed up with waiting for her musician boyfriend, Jimmy (subtly detailed by Michael Madsen), to stop roving and commit. Louise organizes a weekend fishing trip for herself and Thelma, who doesn't know how to fish. "Neither do I," says Louise, "but Darryl does it -- how hard can it be?"
Screenwriter Callie Khouri deftly draws a deep and dangerous drama about two incredibly lonely women whose dreary lives are made brighter only through their companionship and self-reliance. Thelma and Louise find strength in their growing friendship despite their battles with nostalgia, remorse, joy and conflict. Bringing out the depth of these exceptionally complex characters are the magnificent Sarandon and Davis. Each brings their own brand of charisma to the role, making their portrayals realistic and complete.
Sarandon fought hard for every line and every extra moment, Ridley Scott is very receptive to ideas from cast and crew members on his films, and used many suggestions from Ms. Sarandon during production, the visual of Louise packing her shoes in plastic bags while prepping for the lady's weekend getaway in the mountains; the scene where Louise exchanges her jewelry for the old man's hat ( brilliant); and the scene where Louise stops the car in the desert at night and takes a personal moment looking at the stars while Thelma sleeps in the car – My favorite scene in the film, a scene that took half the night to light.
Originally the fight scene in the motel room with Jimmy called for Louise and Jimmy to make love and conduct an impromptu mock wedding ceremony. Sarandon felt that having sex would be the last thing Louise would be interested in doing at that point in the story and told Scott that if she performed the sequence as written that they would have to include a scene where Louise would wig out as a result. They shot it Sarandon’s way and it’s a brilliant moment in the film in the motel tell “Give it to me here…” and later ”We both got what we settled for…” that was all Sarandon’s doing. Nice work. Actors always think they know better, but rarely do they, Sarandon obviously did.
And prior to signing on to do the film, Scott gave Sarandon his word that he would not change the ending of the movie. Major players had been up for Louise Sawyer – Meryl Streep, Frances McDormand, Cher…great names but we can’t imagine anyone but Susan Sarandon. It’s a subtle, terrific, powerhouse of a performance…And she give Thelma / Geena Davis all the room she needed – she’s a generous friend indeed. Another one of my personal favorites moments. Looking at the old destroyed face lady in the runned down dessert town on the run – out of money about to put on some lipstick. She tosses it out. As Thelma is robbing the grocery store. Both signature moments vital to the overall theme and truth of the picture. Thelma big and load – Louise’s small and tiny – but oh so effective. Wow!
Coming to the end as the police cars pulling up behind them I felt I knew what was coming next. As more of the theater was shouting "No" - "don't do it" I was quieting hoping they would go. And then Thelma said, "Let's not get caught...Keep going" Louise,"You sure?" Thelma, "Yeah". I knew if they had the courage to do it - it would be the perfect ending. Not even Romeo and Juliet went at the same time. And they did. Punch it. And so it goes. Seeing this with my dear friend Shane and all the things in my life that had built up to that moment - it set me free on a very profound level. An experience I will never forget. Haven't had that emotional wallop in a film since. But I'm waiting...