Falling Down (1993)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Falling Down</strong> (1993)

(On Cable TV, March 2012) It’s hard to watch Falling Down (a movie which, for two weeks in 1993, dominated the North-American box-office) without reflecting on the evolution of movies over the past twenty years.  Director Joel Shumacher’s film has become both a period piece of life in Los Angeles during the early nineties, and a reflection of the kind of films we don’t really see in big cineplexes any more.  As Michael Douglas plays a proverbial “angry white male” driven mad by the pressures of modern life, Falling Down targets annoyances but does not indulge in the glorification of vigilantism.  The lead character is to be pitied more than to be admired, something that the conclusion makes sadly clear.  The indictment, in-between on-the-nose symbolism and a little bit of speechifying, is equally spread between victim and aggressor.  Douglas’ clean-cut character is a relic of the fifties unable to cope with the chaos of the nineties, but his downfall is party his own fault.  Not entirely interested in being thriller but a bit too action-packed to be pegged as a pure character study, it’s hard to imagine Falling Down being released widely in 2012 and earning strong box-office success.  The past twenty years, after all, have seen Hollywood shift gears from movies to spectacles: The big screens of the cineplexes, now that alternate distribution mechanisms are well-developed, are for overblown thrills and sure commercial bets: A modern-day Falling Down, absent a wildly popular star as once was Michael Douglas in 1993, would most likely be an independent feature, released on DVD after some success on the film-festival circuit.  On the other hand, things have also changes for the better the moment you stop talking about movies: Los Angeles doesn’t have as big a smog problem as it did in 1993, and its gang violence problem is quite a bit better as well.  Thankfully, much of the film still resonates now thanks to interesting flawed characters and an endearing outraged earnestness.  Who’s to say that only one bad day is the only thing standing between our normal selves and falling down?

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