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Aikman's latest book delves into the 'Thelma & Louise' melee of the '90s

Posted July 13

"OFF THE CLIFF: How the Making of 'Thelma & Louise' Drove Hollywood to the Edge," by Becky Aikman, Penguin Press, $28, 270 pages (nf)

As Louise from "Thelma & Louise" famously said, "You get what you settle for." For aspiring screenwriter Callie Khouri, settling simply wasn't enough. Disillusioned by a sexist Hollywood scene and fueled by a need to tell a story from her heart, Khouri wrote what would become the triumphant 1991 film release "Thelma & Louise," starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis as two would-be victims of circumstance who crush feminine stereotypes with a rebellious explosion of defiance and personal justice.

Becky Aikman, in her new book "Off the Cliff: How the Making of 'Thelma & Louise' Drove Hollywood to the Edge," takes readers on an intimate journey through the making of this film. From Khouri's struggle to find a studio, to Ridley Scott's initial reluctance to direct, to finding actors whose gritty performances would define the face of feminism in the early ’90s, Aikman illustrates the rewards of seeking more, looking beyond present circumstances, holding true to your terms and backing those pursuits with talent, unwavering determination and hard work.

Aikman's fascinating stories of the people behind the characters in this film makes this an interesting read, as each person collectively arrived on set seemingly carrying his or her satchel of personal struggles, unshakable dreams and a disenthralled view of Hollywood's lack of creative and progressive vision.

The book is aptly named "Off the Cliff," which is indicative of the movie's ability to ignite an enduring movement toward a female presence in Hollywood. Although a commercial and critical success, garnering six Oscar nominations and earning Khouri the award for best original screenplay, figures compiled by the Institute On Gender in Media, founded by co-star and activist Geena Davis, illustrate how opportunities remain stagnant for female actors and directors. Statistics show virtually no growth in today's film industry since 1989. Thus, the angle that this movie's influence sparked a welcoming and diverse approach to moviemaking falls short.

Overall, this isn't the first inspiring account of a writer's drive to get a story told, but with mounting discontent in Hollywood's film industry and massive inroads being carved by women in television, hopefully, this won't be the last.

The author's message that achievement is often supported by talent and tenacity is an inspiring model for readers, but the movie's subject matter and film rating limits readership to older, adult readers.

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