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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Really, really good, 21 July 2009

As anyone can see who reads this, I don't do this much. I am only doing it now out of some probably-mistaken idea that if I take the time to comment on what I think was a superb movie, not only will it be seen more often, but maybe that the people responsible will even get their due compliments for pursuing their profession so well.

01. Michael Douglas gives a very good performance in a very difficult role. Somehow the people who rate such things need something of the platform diving paradigm -- degree of difficulty. A very good performance in a very difficult role is much higher praise than a very good performance in a role that any qualified actor ought to be able to perform in their sleep.

02. Robert Duvall, it might be said, especially since I guess I now know that his performance in "A Civil Action" was, sort of a reprise, is probably panned elsewhere by those who do this often as 'just being Robert Duvall'. I don't think so. I see on the screen an actor of immense skill, immense experience guiding that skill, and a result that was a delivery of what the screen writer and the director asked of him, beyond what they could have hoped from whatever dialog they wrote or stage direction they provided.

03. Barbara Hershey could be overlooked, but I think that she played the role, understated as appropriate to the overall production, perfectly. Don't overlook those grainy scenes from their home movies -- that was the actor on stage as well. If you close your eyes and let your memory of the film remind you of the all the women pushed to the side by a film script that ultimately plays two male protagonists against each other, you'll see Tuesday Weld, perhaps over-playing a not-too-attractive role as Mrs. Prendergast, and you'll see the love/fear of Mrs. Foster from Lois Smith, but above all you will think of Foster's ex-wife dealing with a husband forcing a child on to an unwanted rocking horse, and know that a whole lot of acting was powerfully delivered in a low-key style.

04. And finally there is my praise of 'tone' -- tone in the photography, tone in the soundtrack, and finally, the philosophical tone of the story as it plays out. I don't know enough about the film business to know to whom that praise should go. First, I have the feeling that the original writing did not do as good a job of managing tone, so I am sure that whoever takes a book or a play and turns it into a movie, did that. Second, I don't know where the naming of the film came from, but it certainly, in retrospect, must bear some of the burden for the generally-low-success the film achieved. There is so much more here than 'falling down'. A title also portends a tone, and the subtle tones of this production were so much more than what anyone scanning the TV listings would expect from "Falling Down".

As I said up front, I don't do this much, but I suspect that "Out of Order", "Venice Heat", or even "Retired" would have worked better. I can also think of a worse title, "Lake Havasu", but I think if that showed up on the TV re-run list, it would have at least as good a draw as "Falling Down". This film deserves to be seen more than once.

38 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
Outstanding Male Lead, 12 March 2005

Max von Sydow has probably been given proper recognition for his body of work in Europe, but I don't think we have acknowledged that talent sufficiently in America.

This is a superbly made film for which more knowledgeable reviewers than I can make appropriate comments concerning everything from the original story line to the scenic shots covering changing weather and the years of growth of all the characters.

My only contribution is this: Where else do you have a male lead role where certain aspects of being a hero are necessary to the role, yet the fact of the story is that the male lead is failing in almost every, public aspect of his life. Mr. von Sydow pulls it off. He is a failure, yet he has the stature of a hero and it's not just in the eyes of his adolescent son.

I don't think any of the current generation of male leads could have made this film -- perhaps Costner, perhaps Newman. But that's my point; if any of them had crafted this performance, they would have received recognition. Max von Sydow gave the performance of a lifetime and we didn't even know where to classify the film. The film and the male lead should have won for best in class in the year of release. As another reviewer has noted -- this is a gem.