Before viewing Falling Down, I had always been of the opinion that Michael Douglas played mostly relatable characters with a rugged edge to them, see Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct for reference. This is not the case when it comes to his performance as the deranged “D-Fens”. A disenfranchised defence worker with a grudge against Society as a whole and a passion to return home by any means necessary.
At the time, Falling Down was lauded for its ability to “function like a Rorschach Test” (New York Times) as well as director Joel Schumacher’s method of putting a “human face cold statistic and then dares us to look away” (Rolling Stone) but does such a glorious assessment hold up in today’s more altruistic culture? In short, yes, but with one very serious caveat.
Much like the early 90s, the world of today is one finely balanced between carnage and cohesion, a world where maniacs fire automatic rifles in to crowds of innocent people because they believe it is their god-given right do so. Now before we get too political, the reason I mention this is because Douglas’ interpretation of the character finely tows the line between troubled and anarchic without ever appearing sympathetic.
After making the decision to watch Falling Down, I was led to believe that Douglas will astound me with his performance, and, to a degree, that belief was right. However it wasn’t him alone that forced me to pay attention, that honour befalls the continually enigmatic Robert Duvall and his portrayal of the soon to be retired, Prendergast. A passive man, with a heart of gold and a love for his wife that transcends everything else happening throughout the day. A love, that drives both characters to a destination far from originally intended.
With regards to watching Falling Down Sooner, I can admit that my ignorance towards its existence should be chastised immediately! I can admit that for some unthinkable reason, I have, until now, missed out on a film with a message more prevalent to today’s insecurities than almost any of the mass-produced tripe released we have to suffer through at present.
Should I have watched Falling Down sooner? Undeniably! I should have watched it years ago. Would I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it? Without doubt. Find it, watch it, experience it, try not to take Barbara Hershey’s Mother character too seriously