Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Falling Down is a 1993 film by Joel Schumacher about a missile engineer played by Michael Douglas making an attempt to "go home" for his daughter's birthday after his car breaks down in traffic on the hottest day of the year. As he passes through the city of Los Angeles, California on foot he finds himself alienated, disgusted and angered by what he experiences as he is accosted, overcharged and rejected. He gradually begins to accumulate weaponry and starts to force people out of his way - with violence, if necessary.
The movie was made during the recession that accompanied George Bush the elder's Presidency during which many engineers who'd worked exclusively on defense applications in the Los Angeles and Orange County area found themselves unable to deal with unemployment. Mike Douglas took something of a risk in taking the role of such an obvious "loser" for his father had played petty heels and Douglas, successful, or at worst only put-upon, men.
D-Fens, during his hegira through multicultural LAX, shows some signs of redemption. In a military surplus shop he responds to the Fascist appeal of the proprietor with a loyalty to a WWII era Americanism that he knows has betrayed him. But a straightforward redemption would have been a groaner if it had involved D-Fens reconciling with his wife and learning Visual Basic. Unfortunately, the conventions of genre made Falling Down a classic Western.
One fairly slick filmic reference in Falling Down may be to the film that was made from Tennessee William's play The Glass Menagerie, when Prendergast visits Douglas' mother in a scene expressive of the fragility of real life in the lower middle class.
Prendergast gets off the best line in the film as he in character exits from a dysfunctional system: "f**k you, Captain, f**k you very much". For Prendergast in a subplot had realized that his own work as a mere cop in an administered world meant nothing. Prendergast is the last man standing in a post-human Venice.
- Director: Joel Schumacher
- Executive Producer: Arnon Milchan
- Screenplay: Ebbe Roe Smith
- Cinematography: Andrzej Bartkowiak
- Film editing: Paul Hirsch
- Music: James Newton Howard
Running time: 113 min
- Michael Douglas - William Foster/D-Fens
- Robert Duvall - Prendergast
- Barbara Hershey - Beth
- Tuesday Weld - Amanda Prendergast
While D-FENS (as he is known as for much of the film, by his car numberplate) makes his rampage through the city, a cop by the name of Prendergast (played by Robert Duvall), on his last day on the job and relegated to working behind a desk starts a search to apprehend him. On the way he picks up clues which single out D-FENS and we learn about both policeman and engineer as the film progresses; D-FENS has been recently downsized and divorced by his wife, losing custody of his daughter and his job. Prendergast has a mentally ill wife who forced him to stop working on the street and now wants him to move with her to Arizona.
As the film continues it becomes apparent that D-FENS thinks society is full of ignorant, selfish automata, that he can't identify with most people, and that the few people he can identify with don't want much to do with him. When he does arrive "home", his wife and daughter have gone, having fled to a pier.
The story progresses along with some slight twists, until D-FENS confronts his wife and child at the end of the pier. Uncertain of what her ex-husband is about to do, D-FENS' wife immediately takes flight with her daughter as soon as Prendergast makes an appearance, pointing a gun at D-FENS' head. Despite Prendergast's attempt to convince D-FENS to give himself up peacefully, D-FENS insists upon having a duel with him - committing suicide by cop by drawing a water pistol on Prendergast. Prendergast shoots D-FENS, who finds himself symbolically floating in the sea as another piece of the city's flotsam.
BBFC Certificate: 18
- Prendergast: "Let's go meet some police officers. They're nice guys. C'mon."
- Foster: "I'm the bad guy?"
- Nick/Surplus store owner: "What's this? Faggot shit!"
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