20 January 2004 | Beaux
Excellent Observations of Society
"Falling Down" is a film that intends to point out the many quirks and oddities of modern urban society. It succeeds in doing so, but one must look carefully. Each situation Bill Foster (Michael Douglas) faces is one that most people can relate to. However, unlike most people he decides to "fight the system" and wage war on the everyday annoyances that we all face. Foster is a People's Champion. To illustrate this, most people who watch this film naturally pull for him and see him as being a hero, mostly out of pure sympathy. However, at the end of the day, Foster is still "the bad guy" for going against the societal grain. Most viewers will find this upsetting or even unfair, considering that he fought back against many criminals and unjust forces.
Where Falling Down fails at times is during the scenes where it attempts to do too many things at once. The bits of humor throughout the film are mostly derived from over-the-top scenes, and at times Foster's actions seem cheesy and unrealistic. The fact that the film is two stories in one (Foster and Prendergast) provides a good contrast because the viewer gets to see both sides of the story. On one hand, we see an ordinary family man going bezerk (but in a way most of us can understand) and on the other hand we see a cop who believes Foster is a complete psychopath. Only the audience knows the truth. The film could have done without some of the lame subplots such as Duvall's marriage, even though those scenes illustrate his perception of being "weak" or "whipped". The film sets out to do a lot at once, which is quite necessary to create a thorough storyline, but at times doesn't come out right on film.
One scene that I have always found moving and powerful is the scene where Bill Foster sees the man who is "Not Economically Viable" protesting outside of the bank that denied him a loan. As everyone on the busy street goes about their business and ignores this man, Foster (and the viewer) are focused directly on him. Foster obviously sympathizes with this poor, hardworking man who is also being stepped on by society. As the man is escorted away in the police car he looks directly at Foster and says "don't forget me". In a gesture of sympathy and appreciation, he nods to him. The two characters share a connection. It is especially important to notice the symbolism of this scene. Both men are wearing the exact same outfits: a white short-sleeved dress shirt, black tie and black pants. They are on the opposite sides of the street. When they look at each other, even though they are white and black, it is as though they are looking into a mirror and seeing the same thing: a victim of society.
Overall, a slightly sad story that tries to do a whole lot, succeeds in most of it and provides lots of entertainment. A good storyline and an excellent observation of modern society.