"DeFens" Taking Back L.A. from Falling Down (1993)
THERE IS something strange, exciting, yet almost eerie about watching a movie and realizing that the territory it is being filmed looks very familiar. So familiar, in fact, that it's almost as though you've been there yourself. You squint, question, and the words "wait a minute..." flash in your mind, until you realize you have been there yourself.
Films have always served as a sort of entertainment-oriented escape from everyday life, an insider's peek into someone else's complicated and problem-ridden world, even if this world is fabricated. But when you watch a movie or television show and you realize that you have walked along the same street that they are filming, bought groceries at the particular bodega where your favorite actor is doing the same on the screen, it ruins the illusion somewhat.
I experienced a bit of this feeling while watching Falling Downbecause parts of the movie were so familiar to me. I've been to Venice and seen the street vendors with their strange merchandise, the overwhelming crowds, the reckless skateboarders, and the constant hustle and bustle of it all. When Bill, played by Michael Douglas,called his wife from Venice, the scene around him was all too familiar. When he was cornered by the detective at the end of the movie, I recognized the pier where he took his last fictional breaths before plummeting into the ocean all too well, as I have probably swam in it.
I enjoyed Falling Down for many reasons. One, it's an exciting and fast-pacedfilm in general, but more importantly, parts of the film really resonated with me. I found myself feeling compassion for Bill, despite the fact that he was clearly a rageaholic psychopath.
While I would never pull out a machine gun from my duffel-bag-assortment of weapons to threaten those who make my path through a typical day in Los Angeles more than frustrating, I do understand the annoyances presented to Bill in the film, which I think is why it is such an important film about Los Angeles.
Yes, his response is crazy which makes it an entertaining film, but who hasn't become so frustrated in Los Angeles traffic that they feel like they could scream? Why do breakfast places only serve breakfast until 11:30 and refuse to serve you anything breakfast related even a minute after, when you know there is a plethora of cold Egg McMuffins waiting to be thrown away in the back of the store? Why are people generally so rude and territorial when it comes to certain places, and why do some shop keepers treat you like you are less than human? Why is there seemingly unnecessary roadwork going on all the time in Los Angeles, and why do the workers choose to complete it during the most inopportune times, such as during rush hour to and from work?
The last question really relates to one of my annoyances about L.A. Road work on La Cienega, which has been going on for at least a month and a half, makes an otherwise forty five minute commute to work an hour and a half long. As I inch by all of the orange signs and workers in their customary uniformed outfits, I strain my eyes to see what they are trying to fix. What is wrong with the road? is there anything wrong with the road at all? As Bill says to the construction workers in the movie, "What are you trying to fix? The road was fine yesterday."
Although Falling Down is obviously much darker, the little anecdotal annoyances and toils of life in Los Angeles reminded me of another movie that pokes fun at Los Angeles life, but in a much more humorous way--L.A. Story, starring Steve Martin.
I watched this movie with my family during my senior year before coming to L.A. for college, and one of the reasons I remember it so clearly is because each family member, at one point or another in the film, felt the need to nudge me and say, "That is so L.A.! That is what you're going to deal with when you go there," with a smile and a chuckle.
Really, though, how would they know this? Had they been to L.A.? Most of them had not. They were just basing these assumptions off of stereotypes they have seen in the media. All of this makes me wonder why Los Angeles is one of the places that is the most stereotyped, in the media, as well as in the minds of people who have never been there. I think that there will always be a sort of fascination with Los Angeles, whether it's out of disgust, admiration, or just ignorance, because of it's diversity and the fact that it exists as a melting pot of different cultures, things that people from other places have never experienced and aren't used to, like we talk about in class. I will end with some quotes from L.A. story, the first of which I remember my family members thought was hilarious and thought I would have to deal with every time I bought coffee (for the record, I don't, and people in Austin or anywhere else can be just as humorously picky about their particular coffee orders):
Tom: I'll have a decaf coffee. Trudi: I'll have a decaf espresso. Morris Frost: I'll have a double decaf cappuccino. Ted: Give me decaffeinated coffee ice cream. Harris: I'll have a half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon. Trudi: I'll have a twist of lemon. Tom: I'll have a twist of lemon. Morris Frost: I'll have a twist of lemonl Cynthia: I'll have a twist of lemon.
And, in conjunction with mine (and Bill's) thoughts on Los Angeles roads:
Trudi: He said it's the first day of spring.Harris: Oh shit! Open season on the L.A. freeway!