When Ridley Scott directed Thelma and Louise in 1991, it's doubtful he could have expected that, almost 20 years later, his classic road movie would inspire a French filmmaker.
Thelma, Louise and Chantal is the debut feature from writer-director Benoît Pétré, a photographer who'd been working in the fashion world and taking actors' portraits since 2003. His movie stars Jane Birkin, Caroline Cellier and Catherine Jacob as Nelly, Gabrielle and Chantal, three women in their 50s who set off to attend the wedding of an ex-boyfriend (Thierry Lhermitte) in La Rochelle.
According to the synopsis, during “this eventful drive, the three women will share the moments of love, yelling and feeling down experienced by 50-somethings, which are by turns funny, fragile and moving.”
It sounds rather lighter in tone than Scott's film, which starred Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in the tale of a waitress and her married gal pal whose road trip turns ugly when one shoots a redneck who was trying to rape her friend, and head to Mexico pursued by cops.
As for the connection with Thelma and Louise, Pétré said that film had "left its mark on more than a generation,” and he used his feelings about it "to make a personal film that is close to viewers."
He told Cineuropa, “Women are strong, fearless and don't let themselves go. That's what I find touching. In my film I thus want to hold them up as an example, by breaking the taboos surrounding their lives, including on a sexual level."
French critics have embraced the movie. “This comedy is an attractive partition of humour and tenderness which goes to war against disillusionment, "declared Le Parisien. “An excellent road movie served by three actresses at the top, “opined Le Figaro.
It seems audiences were only mildly captivated – the film sold $US1.02 million worth of tickets in its first week on around 200 screens- and it's provoked wildly different reactions from cinemagoers.
“Good comedy with a trio of beautiful actresses including Caroline Cellier with a passion, politically incorrect Birkin….and Catherine Jacob as a woman forsaken,” blogged one admirer. “Some fine secondary roles. Do not miss the credits start and end.”
“Vulgar pitiable, all the cliches are there,” thundered one disappointed fan. “I left before the end. It is far from the original.”