Men finally getting just desserts on film

May 17, 1991|By Glenn Lovell | Glenn Lovell,Knight-Ridder

IT'S BEEN A long time coming, but the loutish male of the species finally is getting his comeuppance on the big screen. Suddenly, Hollywood is catering to the not-so-private fantasies of America's neglected and abused wives. And judging from the response to "Sleeping With the Enemy" and "Mortal Thoughts," a sizable audience is eager to applaud the systematic humiliation -- even murder -- of the opposite sex.

But the strongest bit of feminist wish-fulfillment is yet to come. It is "Thelma & Louise," which opens May 24. In a clever fusing of "Easy Rider" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," director Ridley Scott ("Alien") tells of two Arkansas friends who, fed up with their good-for-nothing menfolk, take to the open road, where they find freedom and new self-worth as a couple of latter-day Bonnie Parkers. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis co-star.

It would be naive to think Hollywood finally is getting in touch with its "feminine side," like the Steve-reincarnated-as-Amanda character in "Switch." Hollywood thinks with its wallet, not its conscience. Demographic workups confirm that the woman usually decides which movie she and her date or husband will attend. Women always have been better-read and, therefore, more in tune with what is happening culturally. This translates into stronger opinions about where to plunk down the week's movie allotment.

Hence, male moviegoers now are being treated to the almost weekly sight of men getting a double helping of just desserts. In "Sleeping" and "Mortal Thoughts," psychotic hubbies die at the hands of women. In Blake Edwards' new "Switch," the womanizing Steve plays into the hands of three ex-girlfriends bent on revenge. And in "Thelma & Louise," the point-blank eradication of a honky-tonk rapist and the elaborate humiliation of a lecherous truck driver bring howls of approval.

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