Everyone has had a time in their life when everything just falls apart in front of them. When life just doesn’t work out as planned and all of our efforts somehow manage to remain futile and unfulfilled. Now, most of us just pick up and continue on, maybe briefly flirting with the idea of acting out or doing something drastic, but most of us suck it up and push through the bad times with the knowledge that things are bound to get better…eventually.
Sometimes however, people just snap and that is what the film Falling Down is all about.
Today’s Key Movie:
William ‘D-Fens’ Foster (Michael Douglas) is having a bad day. Recently laid-off, divorced and trying to get to his daughters birthday party, Foster finds himself at the end of his rope when he gets stuck in traffic and begins a series of events that seem determined to keep him from his destination. Foster soon finds himself being tracked down by Police Sergeant Martin Pendergast (Robert Duvall) who, on his last day on the job, finds himself facing his own set of frustrations which happens to include D-Fens himself.
Why this movie?
As I said before, everyone has had a horrible day, one that makes them want to lash out at society and fix the problems in their lives with a blunt instrument instead of with surgical precision. When I first saw this film, I viewed it from the eyes of someone who had not had much life experience and saw this as a story about taking justice into your own hands. As I have grown older, I realize just how wrong I was and that this is a film is one that that explores how taking matters into your own hands would only make us the villain in our own story.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
Directed by Joel Schumacher, This is perhaps one of Michael Douglas’ finest films and a film that really manages to capture the frustration and rage we have all felt at some point in our lives. It gives those feelings a face and a name, allowing us to live vicariously through the lead character in a way we could never do in real life. That being said, as you find joy in his antics, you soon realize that you are in fact rooting for someone who does not deserve your applause. This is a person who has genuinely lost his mind and poses a danger to the world around him.
The film presents a unique exploration of grief, frustration, anger, guilt, hatred and more using Douglas as a vessel for these emotions but showing what happens if those emotions go unchecked. While he starts the film innocently attempting to get to his destination, we watch as the fragile mind of William Foster forms cracks and finally breaks allowing him to realize his deepest wishes to strike out against anyone he feels has done him wrong. In many ways this could be the origin story of a comic book anti-hero not unlike The Punisher, but we quickly find that such actions have immediate and often fatal consequences. While a character like The Punisher would go on to have adventures beyond his initial outrage, the story of D-Fens shows that any such activities would be short lived at best.
On the other hand, we have Police Sergeant Martin Pendergast (Duvall) who is only trying to make it through his final day on the job. Unknowingly crossing paths with Foster, Pendergast soon finds himself desperate to stop this man from whatever damage he may do. Dealing with his own personal and professional problems, Pendergast serves as a counterpoint to Fosters madness, showing the viewer a healthier way to deal with their troubles.
This is a powerful story that really resonates as much today as it did when it was released in 1993, perhaps even more so. Between Government Shutdowns, distrust in leadership, shaky economics, mass shootings and more, we are all facing tough times and things only seem to be getting tougher. Many people are finding themselves in similar situations to Foster and not knowing how to handle their problems. In many ways, this film serves as a warning to those who feel the need to lash out and do the things they want without regard to others. Foster is a time bomb on the verge of exploding, he is a man literally on the edge of his very sanity. From the first few moments of the film, it is clear that this man is on the verge of cracking and, it is his own frustrations and lack of ability to deal with those frustrations that ultimately cause his downfall. The ultimate lesson is that, if you follow your impulse to lash out, no matter what, you will be caught and you will find themselves in a situation that will not end well. Douglas’ character is not the hero of his own story and this is what makes this film so impactful.
OK, where do I get this movie?
You can grab this one for around $25 on bluray these days and even find it on most digital platforms. It is a great film and, if you have never seen it, you really should.
As usual, here is the trailer.
Late To The Game 7/4/2019
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