Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Scene Stealer: Falling Down

I’m sure we’ve all felt at one time or another that we’ve been pushed to the breaking point; that sometimes the common frustrations of everyday life are all a bit too much.  Some of us exercise to release the tension, others take a hot bath or go for a massage, and some may kick back with a glass of red wine in front of the TV to unwind.  Essentially, most of us cope with the crap and forge onward. 

In Falling Down, we see what happens when a man is stretched beyond the breaking point and snaps.  He’s lost his job, has gotten divorced and he cannot see his ex-wife and child because there is a restraining order against him.  The film is an effective thriller that shows what happens when a man who thought he had it together and all figured out slides towards madness because after several years of hard work was told that he was no longer necessary.  He woke up every morning with nothing to worry about until his sense of relevance and his personal life crumbled and he fell to pieces.  We see what results when he’s pushed beyond the brink and unleashes his darkest feelings because he decides he’s not going to take it anymore.

Michael Douglas plays the man known only as D-FENS, after his vanity licence plate.  He is already unhinged when he abandons his car in a freeway tie-up and sets off on foot across Los Angeles. During his walk, his frustration rages as he repays a series of random injustices that he’s experienced throughout his life.  In one situation, he trashes the store of a Korean grocer who won’t give him change to use the payphone.  Later, he steals a bag of guns from some punks who crash their car in a failed drive-by shooting.

In the scene stealer, D-FENS walks into a fast food joint called Whammyburger at 11:33am for breakfast.  He is told by the manager, who calls him “Buddy,” that he can’t have breakfast because they stopped serving it at 11:30am.  "I don't want to be your buddy," D-FENS tells the manager. "I just want breakfast." "Well, hey," says the manager, "I'm really sorry." "Well, hey, I am too," D-FENS responds in kind.  Now locked and loaded thanks to the bag of firearms he stole, D-FENS pulls out a gun. The smug fast food manager who denies him breakfast is another common frustration that exacerbates the nagging civic despair D-FENS already feels.  With gun in hand, he goes on to express his displeasure with the dwindling quality of customer service and food preparation, which though literal frustrations, also serve as commentaries about his feelings about the decline of, well, everything.  This is a great scene in an interesting and thought-provoking film that does a good job of representing the familiar feelings of stress and upset we experience due to common frustrations, but it takes one man’s reaction to those common frustrations to the extreme.


8 comments:

  1. Great movie to watch after an aggravating day o if only to have someone like Michael Douglas' character to sympathize with.

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    1. It's an interesting and entertaining film and it does make you realize that anyone could be pushed beyond the brink at any time as life's little frustrations and annoyances pile up.

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  2. Such an underrated film. I just love that scene. He's just been through a hard day. Having to deal with a guy over-charging him for a Coke. All he wants is a good breakfast but ends up getting angry. And the lunch he gets turns out to be not worth what anyone is paying for.

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    1. Agreed - it is an underrated film. And that scene rings so true. I know I've been burned when I've wanted breakfast and can't have it because I walked in one minute past breakfast time. And I'm sure we've all ordered a burger that looks incredible in the picture they've got on the wall only to find that the real thing is a squished, messy and much smaller version.

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  3. Holy god, I love this movie and this scene to death. Personally, I think Douglass should've been nominated for an Oscar for his performance here. He becomesD-FENS.

    Excellent write up of an excellent scene.

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    1. Thanks, Alex. I'm glad you liked my scene stealer pick and post for the week. I, too, really like this film and that scene always stands out for me when I think of it. Douglas was did deliver a superb performance.

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    2. Agreed - this has always been the standout, symbolic scene of Falling Down for me. Helps that it's the funniest as well.

      FD has always seemed like a film that was better as an idea than its execution turned out, but that doesn't mean it's not still very strong. If only they'd nixed the Duvall/wife (sorry, can't recall who played her) sidestory...always pulls me right out of the flick...

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    3. I agree that the film doesn't fire on all cylinders, but I appreciate the ideas it attempts to explore and I really liked Michael Douglas' performance in the film. I think the Duvall storyline is relevant because his character represents the antithesis to D-Fens. Where D-Fens is a man who has snapped under life's pressures, Duvall's character has managed to keep it together under many of the same pressures.

      The wife storyline I'd agree could have been replaced with something more exciting, and it was Barbara Hershey who played her.

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