Geena Davis as Thema Dickinson in Thelma & Louise
Yes, I said Geena, not Susan.
Thelma & Louise, which I first saw about 4 years ago at age 20, has etched itself into my soul as possibly my favorite film of all time. Because I first encountered it at a period in my life when I totally identified with - and needed - this kind of story, it's become an integral part of my psyche. I first watched it in Buffalo while visiting my Aunt Jill, who insisted we rent it on a trip to Blockbuster (back when Blockbuster was the thing). And I knew the very first time I saw it that this film was something special, and that I LOVED it, though I'd only grow to love it more over time. There was a phase after I finally bought the DVD when I'd watch it about once a week, for what seemed like months. For a while, Thelma & Louise were my best friends.
And I always identified more with Thelma. Most people cite Louise as their favorite (and Sarandon's perf as the more impressive), but I've always had a soft spot for Thelma. She's the one who changed most throughout the film, the one who gets the big love scene and the big laughs, the one who robs the convenience store, the one who holds the cop at gunpoint, the one who first suggests that they "keep going" at the end. She starts off as the ditzy, naive sidekick to Sarandon's more savvy Louise, but ends up calling the shots once things really get rolling.
Who can forget the moment when Thelma first reveals that she's brought a gun on the road trip, citing "bears and snakes" as her reasons? Or when she's listening to her headphones at the pool when Louise calls for her to get out into the car? Or when she walks out into the diner with her frizzy hair? Or when she suddenly finds the balls to pull off an armed robbery, and then later to hold a police officer at gunpoint? When he pleads with her and tells her of his wife and kids, and she responds: "Yeah? You be sweet to 'em. My husband wasn't sweet to me, and look how I turned out."
Don't worry, Thelma. I think you turned out just fine.
It was incredibly liberating and empowering for me to see Thelma find herself and her strength. I don't think any single performance has moved me more. Geena's done some great work over the years, but I don't think anything's ever topped (or will ever top) Thelma Dickinson. It's the definitive Geena Davis performance, and one of the all-time great performances, period.
"Somethin's... crossed over in me. I can't go back. I mean... I just couldn't live."
I, like Louise, know what she means. And I just couldn't live without Thelma.
(for more "Performance That Changed My Life" Blogathon, click here)