Falling Down (1993)
May 6, 2020 11:28 AM - Subscribe

On the day of his daughter's birthday, William "D-Fens" Foster is trying to get to the home of his estranged ex-wife to see his daughter. His car breaks down, so he leaves his car in a traffic jam in Los Angeles and decides to walk. He goes to a convenience store and tries to get some change for a phone call, but the Korean owner does not oblige, tipping Foster over the edge. The unstable Foster, so frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society, begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them.
posted by growabrain (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hoo boy.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:40 AM on May 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

It’s kind of frightening how many fans don’t realize he’s the bad guy.
posted by Monochrome at 12:02 PM on May 6, 2020 [15 favorites]

One of my favorite angry man movies.
posted by hoodrich at 12:41 PM on May 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

The dudes who don't realize DFENS is the bad guy are the proto-incels and MAGAheads. Really.

I do think this is quite a good movie so that's unfortunate. But it's basically a cautionary tale of angry white male privilege before that was a thing recognized by mainstream movies. DFENS is the Brett Kavanaugh of his time.
posted by Justinian at 1:32 PM on May 6, 2020 [7 favorites]

It's an extremely good movie, but it definitely falls into the same "no such thing as an anti-war war movie" trap as Fight Club. The movie has much weaker artistic impact if it's not told mostly from D-FENS' perspective, but that perspective also makes it very easy for the D-FENSes of the world to treat him as an uncomplicated hero figure.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2020 [14 favorites]

I re-watched it before posting, and it never occurred to me that D-Fens was a Hero.
He was sad loser, a tragic villain.
posted by growabrain at 2:51 PM on May 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

His anger and frustration are relatable. His response and actions are indefensible.

The comparison to Fight Club is really apt in that certain people see an immature, violent tantrum as a viable/acceptable solution to their real emotional problems.

A violent shortcut to catharsis makes for a more exciting story than putting in the hard work of seeking help and working through their issues.

Having said that, I really do like this movie and it's pretty high up in my list of (true) anti-hero films. I remember it giving LA real character rather than just being a backdrop.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:03 AM on May 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

Yeah, to be clear, I don't think the fact that a lot of people missed the point is necessarily the movie's fault. The problem is there will always be some doughy white motherfucker who thinks that he really couldcould take down a bunch of gang-bangers if they ran into him on a bad day, instead of seeing scenes like that as the racist fantasies they movie knows that they are. And they're never going to see that D-FENS is a fucking loser whose wife left him for a damned good reason, no matter how clear your movie is about that.

Fight Club is a useful contrast in that sense because it wants to play both angles in a way that Falling Down doesn't. Even when the Narrator rejects Tyler's ideology, he does so in the most bullshit macho way possible. The Narrator/Tyler reveal makes things even worse, because it's the movie literally telling white men that they all have a Tyler Durden badass lurking inside them. It's the exact opposite reveal to the one that happens in Falling Down, where instead of revealing that the movie's badass vigilante is a fucking loser the film reveals that the movie's fucking loser has secretly been a badass vigilante all along.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:10 AM on May 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

Hey, white people
posted by cazoo at 7:12 AM on May 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

cazoo, that article sums up the movie well
posted by growabrain at 9:51 AM on May 7, 2020

One of my co-workers is always quoting this movie. He’s Puerto Rican and is a former drug addict who’s cleaned up his life, but omfg he’s got a shit-tonne of barely suppressed rage.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 10:34 AM on May 7, 2020

It’s kind of frightening how many fans don’t realize he’s the bad guy.

He literally says "I'm the bad guy" at the end!
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:54 AM on May 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

He literally says "I'm the bad guy" at the end!

Not quite. Prendergast wants him to lay down his weapon and they'll both go meet the other cops, whom Prendergast calls "good guys." And then D-FENS asks rather than declares, "I'm the bad guy?" It's something of a recognition on his part that whatever he thought he was (hero, good guy, Joe Citizen just trying to go home) as he was crossing LA was not how others were perceiving him.

This line from the article cazoo links to says it best, "D-Fens’ entire narrative is driven by his misconception that he is the true victim." By the end of the movie, Prendergast has cleared it up for him.

The hero is the cop who does his job despite everything he's got going on and goes home at the end of the day.
posted by Fukiyama at 12:33 PM on May 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

I had no idea people thought he was the hero. This movie is actually my answer when asked what the scariest movie I've seen is, because I could imagine someone snapping and going on a rampage like this.
posted by Kris10_b at 3:50 AM on May 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

posted by trig at 7:39 AM on May 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

Even a proper understanding of Douglas as the villain doesn't really redeem this film given that the actual protagonist's arc is about a man who's lost his masculinity finally regaining it by putting his wife in her place. It's still based on toxic masculinity being the value of a man, just calling for a different kind of toxicity than that which D-FENS is acting in defense of.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:36 PM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

The way the DFENS character works in the movie I thought has some parallels to Humbert Humbert in Lolita (Kubrick). A seduction of rationality that gradually peels away as the movie wears on. While I don't think I've read anybody glorifying Humbert, they both have that hedonistic "heart wants what it wants" edge that would suck in, oh, I don't know, let's say Libertarians.
posted by rhizome at 1:29 PM on May 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

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