It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
I've made a heroic effort to consider "Leaving Normal" on its own, but I cannot rid my mind of "Thelma and Louise." It is not the fault of "Leaving Normal" that it resembles a better film released less than a year earlier, but there you have it: As two women hit the road in an attempt to escape their pasts, the echo of the earlier, better film sounds in almost every scene.
The women this time are named Marianne and Darly. As a couple, they have some of the same dynamic as Thelma and Louise. Marianne (Meg Tilly) is the quieter, less worldly character. She has a knack for getting into unworkable marriages and has just walked out on a husband whose unpredictable rages leave her trembling in the kitchen.
Darly (Christine Lahti) is older and has been around more. Under the name of Pillow Talk, she used to be a saloon stripper, and although she hopes that chapter of her life has been forgotten, she still talks and dresses like a cheap date.
The women meet completely by accident shortly after Marianne has run away from her husband. It is never quite clear what they have in common -- they do not form a couple in the sense that T&L did -- but they cast their lot with one another, turn their backs on the town of Normal, Wyoming, and head north to Alaska. Why Alaska? Why not Alaska? The screenwriter, Edward Solomon, has seen a lot of other road movies and knows the general form of the genre, which always includes encounters along the way with strange but wonderful people.