A couple years back during one of my many teenage girl obsession periods, I had an undying fascination with River Phoenix. I can’t entirely explain where it all came from and much less how it did, but I was intent on watching any movie I could find with him in it. Maybe it was because he was such a compelling actor to me. He was fueled with passion for his craft. Anyhow, let’s not keep gawking over him, this isn’t the point.
On my little move journey, thoroughly enjoying classics such as Stand By Me, Running on Empty and The Thing Called Love, just to name a few, I stumbled upon an old indie film called Dogfight that was released in 1991. I don’t know if it was a very popular film then because well, I wasn’t born yet. I was immediately take by it as I started watching. To my flighty memory, I haven’t seen a movie that stirred up so much emotion in me - good and bad - and yet is such a comforting film to watch over and o
Quite frankly, why would I find a movie that’s so wildly gross and misogynistic in the first half of the movie, comforting? It was acceptable behavior back in the 60’s (the film setting) whether or not it was right (certainly isn’t). Perhaps it’s the evidence of Eddie’s character developing. His poor attitude changing when he actually meets the sweet yet fiery soul, Rose Fenny. Though difficult and set in his Marine ways, Eddie makes the conscious effort to be better. To feel what genuine love feels like? To truly have an enriching experience with a nice girl before shipped off to face the terrors of Vietnam?
Or maybe it’s something in my young and fairly naive 20 year old soul that holds onto that hope, that stereotype females have been spoon-fed since they were little, that that special boy who isn’t quite like the others will find you and change your world. Is this film nurturing that little ingrained nook of my soul? Something deeper I don’t fully understand about myself?
That’s the funny thing about media and pop culture. We don’t always understand exactly what we’re exposed to constantly. Ideas we’ve been given and we’ve normalized. Like men belittling women in the 1960’s and that was considered normal. “It’s because he likes you!” Presently, feminism is tirelessly at work tearing down those ideas and behaviors.
This movie truly conflicts me. How could I ever tell people this is my favorite film? People would probably question my stance on feminism or think I romanticize the tropes and norms that newer generations are turning the tables on. Maybe I’ve thought too much on this. See what this film has made me think about?
However, there’s an unmistakable tenderness between Eddie Birdlace and Rose Fenny. You just follow two people learning about each other. Working through conflicted beliefs and mindsets - a war driven marine and a peaceful activist. They chat about interest with their own little quirks, discussing the politics of the time, having the hard discussions and arguing, then laughing and smiling a few scenes later. It’s a very… normal dating scenario. It’s realistic. There’s no threat of a third love interest, you don’t have to brace yourself for an uncomfortable sex scene (only enjoy Eddie treasure and admiring Rose with kisses and hugging). It was refreshing to see something that normal. Or at least, my perception of normal.
It’s one of these films where I felt like it was written just for me. These tender details I would include if I were writing a new story. This strong connection between two people that felt so real. That had fluctuating emotions that felt genuine and weren’t forced into the script. It flowed effortlessly and naturally. But even with a romantic night, it wouldn’t stay perfect after that. The ending makes me cry every time. I won’t spoil the moment, its a thousand words spoken in a moment of silence.
Despite the conflicted thoughts I have about this film, it’s one of those little gems you find and keep with you for a while. It makes you think. It makes you feel. It lets you escape. It lets you feel comfort. Dogfight is a special little story I hold close.
I really look forward to hearing feedback. Did you enjoy it? Was it too all over the map? Should I expand on more of my points? Is there something I'm missing that I'm not seeing as the reader? I'm really enjoying the class while working on my writing skills and creativity. (they feel a bit rusty.) However, I still wanted to take the chance to share what I have so far and see what adjustments I should make! Feel free to tear it apart, haha! I need the constructive criticism to improve. I know this is kind of an old film and not exactly current pop culture. However I hope my personal connection and discussion about this film makes sense!