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River Phoenix stars in this period drama about a young man, naive in some ways and worldly in others, who learns an important lesson about the nature of beauty. In the fall of 1963, Eddie Birdlace (River Phoenix) is an 18-year-old Marine Corps volunteer who is about to ship out with three of his buddies for a tour of duty in Viet Nam. Planning a massive blowout for their last night in San Francisco, Eddie, his buddies, and a number of other Marines set up a contest they call a "dog fight." Each man contributes $50 to the pot, and whoever can bring the ugliest date for their meeting that night at the bar wins the prize. Not having much luck finding a suitable contestant, Eddie finds a plain and slightly zaftig woman named Rose Feeney (Lili Taylor), who works in a coffeeshop and dreams of a career as a folk singer. Rose agrees to go out with Eddie, partly because she feels sorry for him, but as the evening wears on, Eddie finds himself growing fond of Rose and tries to worm his way out of taking her to the "party" he's told her so much about. When Rose learns the true nature of the contest, she is furious, not just for herself but for the other women who were cruelly and pointlessly humiliated; Eddie, severely chagrined, asks her out to dinner, hoping to somehow earn her forgiveness. Noted folk singer Holly Near appears as Rose's mother. … More
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Critic Reviews for Dogfight
Savoca's second film also deals with sexual politics, centering on a type of woman seldom seen in American movies
The great casting in this film is evident from the stars to the supporting actors and even to the bit players.
Creatively deals with insecurity, group pressures, male machismo and loneliness
Audience Reviews for Dogfight
Dogfight is cruel, poignant, and yet played out. This is one of the more unique period pieces, an independent film made right at the peak of River Phoenix's fame and only several years before his subsequent death. The story is one that makes little sense in the way of meaning. The span of time is the early sixties, right as the folk scene was starting to gain momentum and the Vietnam War was turning from a conflict to a full scale war. Most of the plot relies heavily on the setting to compliment the storyline. Though this is supposed to be about what beauty really means I didn't see much in the way of Birdlace's (Phoenix) change in demeanor or values, only selfish behavior. Though he takes advantage of Rose (Lili Taylor) and you can tell he feels bad about it before going through with the demeaning act itself, he still demonizes himself by taking her in the first place and not standing up for her directly. He even lies to her while trying to apologize for the cruel way he treated her. The character is a severe detraction from what Marines were. It's not that his portrayal was unrealistic of what wartime soldiers were like, but the script undersells their intelligence at every turn and instead tries to sell us on brotherhood, and an entire side storyline about the folk music scene. Rose is a simplistic clod of a girl, who isn't unattractive, and shouldn't fall for his line of bullshit. Though the film is about changing yourself through acceptance and tolerance, Rose shouldn't have let him try to change himself by using her, and he sure shouldn't have started things with her the night before he was being shipped out. I accept many of these faults because the romance was actually quite sweet. It shouldn't have happened in the first place, but the endearing performance from Phoenix pushed me into liking this despite everything. This is a great performance for him, and Taylor who would go on to make the horrid version of The Haunting. Though this film drags (which is odd since it comes in at an hour and a half) it does plant the idea that what you're led to believe isn't always what's right, and any movie that promotes equality and understanding, no matter how clumsy a way they go about it, gets some kudos from me.More
A touching little gem of a piece as a new couple enjoy a night on the town before he ships overseas to be an advisor in Vietnam. Phoenix and Taylor are amazing. I'd never heard of it before! Did I give it 3 stars? Shoulda been 4.More
Set San Francisco, California during the Vietnam War, Dogfight conceives the innocent and inexperienced relationship of an unsophisticated woman and a young United States Marine she met on the eve of his trip to Vietnam. Most hilarious. Most charming. Most romantic. My personal brand of romance. Lovely.More
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