Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall
Ebbe Roe Smith
Joel Schumacher is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good director. He's simply not. Yet, almost despite him, "Falling Down" is one of my favorite films of all-time thanks to a stellar performance by Michael Douglas and a captivating script.
"Falling Down" is the story of William Forster (Douglas), an unemployed defense work...an average American with a few joys but many more struggles as he tries to survive. William is just trying to make it to Venice for his daughter's birthday party...but every obstacle in the world is getting in his way. Along the way, William begins to crack under the constant everyday harassment of people, circumstances and life itself until he begins acquiring weapons and, ultimately, begins fighting back.
Parallel to William's story is that of a retiring cop, Prendergast, played by Robert Duvall. Prendergast is retiring for his wife and is obviously unhappy about it. Perhaps this film's only weakness is its climax...under the deep emotions of both individuals involved here I wanted more...in fact, I needed more YET, once again, the performances of Duvall and Douglas kept this scene from failing. I can't help but believe that under another director it could have been so much more.
Supporting performances are offered by Barbara Hershey, Tuesday Weld, Fredric Forrest and D.W. Moffatt in a smaller role. The film has several memorable scenes, however, if one sees "Falling Down" as simply a "man against the system" film I think we're missing the point. "Falling Down" is about the way we are becoming obsolete in each other's lives and in society. I dare say that I identified with William along his path, and fantasized about some of his responses. Watching him explode reminded me how, on occasion, I have this absolute desire to explode and confront and fight back. I don't...I don't because society has taught me not to, but is there this point where humanity is bound to crack due to our absence of compassion, our absence of humanity? Sometimes, I wonder.
The film is rather simplistic in terms of its production design, but this works effectively considering the story. Douglas' haircut bothered me for the longest time, yet even his haircut, I believe, represents his years of submission to society. The score works well with the film, and I found the cinematography to exhibit an effective use of shading and black/white imagery.
As I said when I began, Joel Schumacher is not a good director. Yet, as a minister I can't help but believe that miracles do happen. "Falling Down," a stellar film, is Joel Schumacher's miracle.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic