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Motoring isn't just boys with toys

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: September 05, 2012

A road movie with a twist – Thelma and Louise

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When talking cars and films, the stereotypical assumption is to assume that men are the natural third element in this triumvirate. On closer scrutiny however, it has often been women that have had the greater impact and critical acclaim when it comes to films that feature cars and women in the lead roles.

Take the classic role reversal picture of Thelma and Louise for example where two bored housewives take off on a wild, lawless adventure in Louise's 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible only for them to end up in the final scene driving off into the sunset and their ultimate demise over the edge of the Grand Canyon. It is interesting to assume that had the two protagonists been men, it is unlikely that the ending would not have resulted in both of their deaths. Men like a hero!

Crash on the other hand, is a 2004 American drama film co-written, produced, and directed by Paul Haggis. It was inspired by a real life incident in which the director's Porsche was carjacked outside a video store on Wiltshire Boulevard in 1991. It won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Original Screen Play and Best Editing in 2005. The film is about racial and social tensions in Los Angeles, California and involves many scenes specifically with women in cars.

A typical tense sequence in the film is when the main policeman character comes across a car accident and as he crawls into the overturned vehicle, he finds Christine Thayer played by Thandie Newton, who is trapped. The two had met previously when the policeman had assaulted her. Upon recognizing him, Christine becomes hysterical, screaming for him to leave her alone and refusing his help, but petrol is leaking from the tank and running the downhill towards another wreck, which has already caught fire. He calms her down, and with the assistance of his partner and spectators, they pull her out just as her car bursts into flames.

Another film that sees a female take the lead role and features her driving an expensive car is Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. This 1990 romantic comedy is set in Los Angeles stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. The story of Pretty Woman centres on the down-on-her-luck Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward who is hired by a wealthy businessman, Edward Lewis, to be his escort for several business and social functions, and their developing relationship over the course of Vivian's week-long stay with him. Originally intended to be a dark cautionary tale about class and prostitution in Los Angeles, this film was reconceived as romantic comedy with a large budget. It was widely successful at the box office, and it became one of the highest money-makers of 1990.

The unusual car scene sees a disoriented Richard Gere struggling to master the manual gears of a Lotus Esprit. Finding himself in the seedier part of town, the good-hearted prostitute, offers to take over and drive him to his hotel. And so begins an enchanting an unlikely love affair.

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