FALLING DOWN. (1993) DIRECTED BY JOEL SCHUMACHER. STARRING MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ROBERT DUVALL, BARBARA HERSHEY, TUESDAY WELD, RACHEL TICOTIN, DEDEE PFEIFFER AND FREDERIC FORREST.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I bloody love this film. Michael Douglas as the film’s anti-hero Bill Foster, a man who helps to make missiles for a living until he is made redundant, is a kind of Everyman, at war with the reality of everyday life.
One morning while sitting in traffic on the freeway in sweltering heat, surrounded by angry morons, he suddenly decides that he’s mad as hell with everything and he’s not going to take it any more. (Although, the signs are that this rebellion against life in this particular man has been brewing for some time.)
He abandons his car, telling other pissed-off motorists that he’s ‘going home.’ By this, he doesn’t mean the home he shares with his jumpy mother who’s terrified of his mood swings and explosive temper, but the house where he used to live with his wife Elizabeth, their daughter Adele and their beautiful Labrador dog. Until he was kicked out for, guess what, his mood swings and explosive temper.
Now he’s got it into his head that he’s going home for his daughter Adele’s birthday, despite the fact that the frightened Elizabeth has a restraining order out against him and keeps calling the police out to the house to reassure her that she and Adele are safe enough. Bill’s journey home is an extraordinary one.
He encounters various situations and people as he travels, throughout the course of one day, back to his former family’s home. They are the kinds of situations and people that drive most of us demented but, unlike the rest of us, for whom grumbling passive-aggressively is the only real outlet for our frustrations, Bill Foster actually takes the law into his own hands, while immediately putting himself outside the law for ever after because of it.
Most of us are probably cheering loudly as he steadily dispatches the villains of everyday life, such as the shopkeeper who charges over the odds for a can of fizzy drink and the burger place that stops serving breakfast on the dot of half-eleven, even if you’re gagging for a bite of scrambled egg and you’re only a measly seven seconds late.
My favourite bit in the whole film is when Bill compares the flat soggy burger they serve him in the Whammyburger to the juicy, succulent-looking burger in the advertised picture on the wall in front of him. This is a favourite bugbear of mine own, lol. Aren’t I always complaining about that exact same thing in real life? My kids are vigorously nodding yes, yes she is…!
There’s also the Latino punks who try to rob him because he’s inadvertently wandered onto their crappy derelict ‘pissing-ground,’ and the rich old white man who tries to keep him from walking across his precious golf-course while a game is in mid-play. Rich people in their exclusive golf-courses with glittering lakes and acres of lush green rolling parkland where the poor are forbidden to enter are really pissing Bill Foster off today.
I love the bit where he tells the homophobic and racist guy in the Army Surplus Stores, when the guy tries to make out that he and Bill are the same: ‘We’re not the same. I’m an American, and you’re a sick asshole.’ Woo-hoo! Go, Bill.
The guy is like Herman, the menacingly soft-voiced, one-armed surplus stores owner in THE SIMPSONS, and there’s a similar set-up in Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION as well. Something about a spider catching itself a nice juicy fly…
There’s an hilarious episode of Irish clerical sitcom FATHER TED which sees the titular Fr. Ted inheriting a room full of Nazi memorabilia from a priest who clearly supported that side during the war. ‘Eh, would you have anything there from the Allied side at all, Seamus?’ a bewildered Ted asks his friend. ‘Oh no,’ replies Fr. Seamus instantly. ‘That type of thing wouldn’t interest me at all…!’ Very funny stuff indeed.
Anyway, as Bill Foster gets ever closer to his family home and his little daughter’s birthday party, accumulating scalps and ever bigger and more dangerous weapons along the way, Robert Duvall is superb as Martin Prendergast, the cop with literally one day left before he’s due to take early retirement.
He takes it on himself to track down Bill Foster, the square little man in the short-sleeved white shirt and tie (like Homer Simpson’s beloved Detective Sipowicz, lol!) with the pens in his breast pocket and a buzzcut you could set your watch to.
Prendergast has been virtually emasculated by his neurotic wife Amanda, who is pushing him to leave the force early and retire to some place where he’ll be utterly miserable for the rest of his life. She’s worried to death that something will happen to him in his life as a cop that will take him away from her. She doesn’t seem to be at all worried about the fact that he’ll resent her forever if she takes him away from a job he’s good at and enjoys. Meantime, however, he has the thrill of the chase (with Foster as the prey) to remind him that he’s alive and still a good cop.
The end is both chilling and sad, as we learn what Bill has in mind as a grande finalé for his little family and compare it against what actually happens to Bill, a man who was so tightly wound that, like the delicate mechanism to which we’re comparing him, he was bound to snap and break after so long.
He’s not evil, just sad and confused, pissed-off and fed-up after losing his job and his family. He not only was made redundant, but he feels that he is redundant. No-one needs or wants him any more. Like that other poor guy in the movie, he feels like he’s ‘not economically viable’ any longer.
This is a terrific film. I’m not condoning Bill D-FENS Foster’s violent methods, but I challenge you to watch this film and not cheer him on at least once for his decision to take no more shit from modern life.
Life can be crowded, noisy, sweaty, confusing, irritating, unfair, clogged up with pettifogging bureaucracy and downright baffling and bewildering at times for the people trying to get through it. Is it any wonder that, one day, it should prove too much for someone…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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