Blog Directory CineVerse: "I'm the bad guy?" Yeah, pretty much...

"I'm the bad guy?" Yeah, pretty much...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Viewed 25 years after its release, in the modern age of increasingly alarming gun massacre, road rage and domestic violence incidents, the film "Falling Down" can feel like a cautionary tale warning viewers of the future about the ticking time bomb nature of marginalized men easily triggered by societal pressures. While the movie has its flaws and detractors, it can still feel disturbingly relevant today. Last night, CineVerse attempted to dismantle this explosive device by taking it apart and studying its design. Here's what we discovered:

  • This was definitely a time capsule movie of its time and place, set in Los Angeles—the setting of the Rodney King beating and subsequent race riots that happened a year earlier. Los Angeles was considered by many a tinderbox of racial animus around this time.
  • Some have theorized that the darkness of Foster’s character is what was simmering in many white older males at this time, which gave fuel to the right wing news media that tapped into these angers and fears.
    • LA Weekly writer April Wolfe wrote: “This film is a prediction of what the ’90s would birth: Toxic, indiscriminate white male rage and what would become the Fox News generation. Today, Falling Down remains one of Hollywood’s most overt yet morally complex depictions of the modern white-victimization narrative.”
  • The filmmakers have to walk a fine line here between seeming to condone and sympathize with Foster and criticizing his actions. Some critics argued that Foster is depicted as an everyman most viewers can identify with, and that they play it both ways and want Foster to be both a villain and a hero; their retort is that this doesn’t work because you can’t have it both ways. 
    • According to Washington Post reviewer Hal Hinson: “It's a nifty little switcheroo the filmmakers pull in the movie's final act. First, they turn their Everyman into an avenging angel, then point a condemning finger at us for rooting for him. It also turns out that D-FENS isn't as much of an Everyman as he was first made out to be. It seems that he had a history of violent behavior, and so instead of being a movie about an average guy who snaps, ‘Falling Down’ is about a nut case pretending to be an average guy who snaps.”
    • Others believe that Foster is a classic antihero who you want to root for but who possesses many negative traits that give him plausible, credible shades of gray.
    • Consider that Foster inflicts violence upon minorities in the film, which was considered racist back in 1993 to many viewers and quite likely even more so today.
  • Seeing through a filtered lens. Foster’s iconic browline glasses, popular in the 1950s and 1960s, become a symbol for an outdated world view. The fact that he wears these Cold War-era glasses suggests a lot about what Foster represents. 
  • Blogger Preston Fassel wrote in his essay: “Falling Down is about the last gasp of the 1950s in the face of the savagery borne of the early 1990s recession, set at that culture’s ground zero: the gang-ravaged, at-one-another’s-throat “melting pot” of Los Angeles. While proponents of 1950s social values had been given a “second chance” in the form of the Reagan 1980s, the economic collapse that came to define the early 1990s, and the resultant societal backlash, proved to be the final nails in the coffin of mid-century Americanism as an acceptable, mainstream ideal…It’s appropriate, then, that the glasses that came to symbolize the outdatedness of the 1950s generation were chosen...Not only do they put his character into context as a “leftover” from another era, but they are literally how he sees the world: A portal which warps his environment and leaves him perceiving of life as still existing as it did during another time. And, of course, the crack that appears in his glasses partway through the film symbolizes his own fragmented and fractured vision not only of America but indeed of his own life.”
  • The thin veneer that separates civilization from chaos and barbarity. Witness how many of the people Foster encounters lack courtesy, tact or civility. His patience and tolerance dissipates as he continues to experience these characters and situations. 
  • Newton’s third law: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The equal and opposite reaction for Foster is Prendergast, who also feels pressured, obsolete and not needed, yet has learned to deal with these pressures and conform to society. It’s a twist of fate that the one person who shows him politeness and respect is the man who eventually ends his life. 
    • Think about how similar Foster and Prendergast are: both wear short sleeve shirts with a tie; both have a daughter they can no longer see; both are, in a sense, serving their last on the job; both face rat race pressures endemic to living in a big city. Yet, when one man loses his meaning/purpose in life (Foster), another finds new meaning and purpose (Prendergast).
  • The dehumanization and depersonalization of mankind. Think about how the main character really doesn’t have a name; instead, he’s associated with his license plate, D-FENS.
  • Going home, also a metaphor for revisiting or living in the past. 
  • The fallacy or death of the American dream.
  • Class warfare, and the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.
  • Social injustice, and how your worth as a human being in society seems to be determined by your net worth. For proof, consider the scene where Foster observes a black man defined a loan due because he isn’t “economically viable.”
  • Eyeglasses, which are an old fashioned type and later develop a cracked lens
  • The hole in the sole of Foster's shoe, suggesting a hole in his "soul"
  • London Bridge, the song about which is repeated throughout the film (underscoring the movie’s title)
  • The snow globe/horse, implying that Foster is living in a fantasy land where he wants things to be perfect
  • Signs and graffiti, which capture Foster’s attention and often provoke him
  • Network
  • 8½ 
  • Death Wish
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Joe
  • The Lost Boys
  • Flatliners
  • A Time to Kill
  • St. Elmo’s Fire

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