Leaving Normal Review

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Given the lavish praise so eagerly and justifiably bestowed upon Thelma & Louise - including, of course, the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay - it was inevitable that Hollywood would soon cotton on to the distinct possibilities afforded by the so-called female buddy movie. First out of the trap with this soft-centre, slightly smug, occasionally sparkling exercise in female abandonment is Edward Zwick, co-creator of thirtysomething and director of Glory, working from a thoughtful if trifle earnest script from Edward Solomon, co-writer of both Bill & Teds.

The conceit here is very much Thelma revisited, this time with a modicum of whimsy and a decidedly upbeat ending. Having walked out on her brutish second husband, the waif-like, demure and perpetually nomadic Marianne (Tilly) cadges a lift out of backwater Normal, Wyoming with cynical cocktail waitress Darly (Lahti) whom she meets by chance at a bus stop.

Darly is, of course, the stereotypical loud, brassy, chain-smoking, swears-like-a-trooper type found only in movies, and so the pair bond freely, express a mutual desire to find themselves and eventually head off to the Alaskan wilds where Darly owns some land and where she abandoned her daughter years before while working as a topless dancer. While one is loathe to pick fault with a film that offers two substantial roles to its leading ladies, this doesn't quite seem to pull together with anything like the breathless precision of Ridley Scott's film.

Its saving grace, however, is its abundant humour - mostly in the form of Darly's foul-mouthed caustic ripostes - while Lahti and Tilly succeed in making the most of material which occasionally slips into coyness. Zwick, to his credit, invests the pair's travels and each successive vista with a fairy tale relevance and continues to do what he does best - have people hug each other.