Eric D. Snider

Falling

Movie Review

Falling

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: B+

Released: January 18, 2008

 

Directed by:

Cast:

The Bible asks, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Eric Boyle, the protagonist in Richard Dutcher's profoundly unsettling new film "Falling," has gotten the short end of the stick: He's lost his soul and hasn't gained the world, either.

Dutcher, the writer and director of Mormon cinema's "God's Army," "Brigham City," and "States of Grace," plays Eric, a lapsed Mormon who moved to L.A. to become a filmmaker but is now stuck in a life he doesn't want. Unable to break in to the business without making something shocking or titillating, Eric pays the bills by working as a freelance videographer. He drives around L.A. all day, looking for fires, crime scenes, and other juicy events to shoot, then sells the footage to news stations. He directly profits from others' misfortunes, and he hates it.

He has a wife, an aspiring actress named Davey (Virginia Reece) who also came to L.A. to make it big but who has also learned firsthand of the city's soul-crushing powers. Their relationship is loving, albeit strained by their ambitions and separate internal struggles. Both have been striving for so long that they wonder if there is any limit to what they will do to succeed.

Eric may have reached his limit, or at least he recognized the limit when he sailed past it. "Falling" covers a four-day span of his life in which he: attends the funeral of a fellow videographer who was caught in gang crossfire, earns a huge paycheck by surreptitiously filming another gangland murder, and berates himself for not intervening to help the victim. That's not even mentioning the tragic event that, as a flash-forward, is the first scene in the film.

These are times that would try any man's soul. What compounds it for Eric is knowing that things could have been different for him if he had stayed on the path of his youth: "I'm not supposed to be like this," he says simply. He was once a faithful religious man. Now, for reasons we don't know (or perhaps for no single reason at all), he has slipped away from his faith. Did he find his religion incompatible with his bottom-feeding livelihood and abandon it to make the job more tolerable? Even as he wistfully considers his former life and rues his current situation, he doesn't seem eager to return to God, even though the unspoken truth is that it would probably help him. He has assembled all the puzzle pieces, yet remains unwilling to put that last key component in place.

It's impossible not to think of Dutcher's own story, widely discussed last year when a Utah newspaper published an editorial by him in which he said he had left the Mormon Church -- not bitterly, or because he believes it to be false, but for personal spiritual reasons. He has said that the idea for "Falling" actually predates his other films, conceived back when he was in L.A. trying to become a filmmaker. But surely recent events have added some shades to the story; all of his films have been personal to some extent.

"Falling" is relentlessly bleak, a tragic, cautionary story in which a number of ugly things happen, and Jim Orr's stark cinematography even makes L.A.'s sunny skies look desolate. The two lead performances are consistently good, even in uncomfortable moments; in Eric and Davey's climactic argument, it's some of the writing I don't quite believe, not the acting. (No spoilers here, but the timing of some of the revelations feels suspect, as does Davey's initial cheerfulness, given where she's just been.)

The finale, brutally violent and almost just as brutally emotional, marks another milestone in Dutcher's growth as a proficient filmmaker and film editor. Relying solely on images, with no words or music, Dutcher conveys this major point in Eric's spiritual journey vividly, graphically, viscerally -- you feel it as much as you see it. But is it the end of Eric's journey, or a turning point leading him in a new direction? He's losing the world; can he still gain his soul?

Grade: B+

Rated R, a lot of harsh profanity, some scenes of graphic and brutal violence, a little nonsexual nudity

1 hr., 22 min.

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This item has 13 comments

  1. Joel says:

    I saw a billboard for Falling that called it "The first R-rated Mormon film." Didn't Mr. Dutcher announce publicly that he was going to "leave Mormon cinema in your capable -- and now seasoned -- hands"? I respect him as a filmmaker, and I think his drive and talents will garner him successes in the filmmaking world. So why is he making and marketing "Mormon films"?

  2. Holly says:

    I saw that billboard too. It's on I-15 at Utah County/Salt Lake County border. It seems incredibly tacky and sensational--not a good move towards a serious film career. "Mormon Movies: Now with Swears!" OK, that's not quite what it said, but it was about that mature.

  3. Bigmonkey says:

    It's good to see Nephi Tarantino back at it.

  4. Christina D says:

    I have to wonder if this movie got any viewers besides Eric, when Dutcher advertised it specifically as R-rated Mormon film? Now, I know that Utah (and I am living in Provo right now) is full of jack-mormons who like to disregard bits of prophetic counsel like Benson's specific admonition "Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.", but come on... who is really going to go see this movie? It seems like kind of a pointless waste of money to me. But what do I know? :)

  5. Eric D. Snider says:

    The billboard is disingenuous. It's a stretch to call "Falling" a "Mormon film" at all. The billboard is an obvious attempt to get attention by creating controversy.

    As for #4: Why do self-righteous people even visit my website? Do they not know that I make fun of their kind constantly? I have to wonder what the appeal is.

  6. cinncinnatus says:

    #4 does sort of have a point in that LDS generallyaren't interested in seeing it and it's not going to appeal to other people, especially if it's advertised as a "Mormon movie".

  7. Grant M says:

    I saw a screening of this which Dutcher attended. There was a Q&A session afterward, and Dutcher explicitly stated that he did not envision ANY audience for this film. If people liked it and watched it, that was obviously great. But he made it as pure art--it was exactly what he wanted it to be, with no consideration of whether it would appeal to anyone else.

  8. Shane Keppner says:

    I heard Dutcher talking about the I-15 billboard while he was being interviewed by an SLC radio station. I remember him agreeing that "Falling" is not a Mormon film and that the billboard wasn't really designed for marketing purposes, but that he just could not resist bugging people like #4 with the billboard. Given the vitriolic responses Dutcher got in response to his editorial, I get it.

  9. Puffy Treat says:

    Did Dutcher ever expand and explain his "spiritual journey" remarks? I know his spirituality is between himself and God, but it was so very vague. The vagueness, combined with his invoking Oliver Cowdery left me extremely curious as to what he wasn't saying...which I don't think was his intention.

  10. Marcos says:

    Is anyone able to reconcile how Dutcher was able to produce the superb "States of Grace" with the purported R-oriented content of "Falling"? If I had to guess, he made the latter after he publicly denounced the HTT conventional Mormon-cinema crowd, and was indifferent about alienating anyone. Regardless of his motive, it must have cost him a small fortune to vent his spleen, as it were.

  11. Puffy Treat says:

    Anyone else sort of disappointed by the synopsis of Dutcher's "Evil Angel"?

    The story of "Lilith" has been done so many times before in books, graphic novels/comics, and yes, some movies.

    The description he gives doesn't sound like it'll be a particularly fresh or different take on the myth.

  12. Clumpy says:

    The vague "spiritual journey" reason was the same one used by Kurt Bestor. Sounds like a teen explaining away his actions with "I'm just figuring some things out right now."

    I don't really mean this as a bash - Dutcher's all right, but it's plain that the pursuit of his art is his absolute mission in life. Judging by the review, at least he got that right.

  13. ClobberGirl says:

    Dutcher recently opened up to the LA Times and said a bit more about the reasons for his departure from the LDS church.

    (Really, really hoping I did the link HTML code on that right)

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