Dogfight - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Dogfight Reviews

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½ September 27, 2012
I was hoping to give this four stars, but the superficial, typical way in which the sixties were portrayed in the latter half of the film was disappointing. The war sequence was also tacky. But it's worth the watch if only for the beautiful chemistry created by River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, who both shine radiantly in their roles. It was also just really funny, and immensely enjoyable.
September 26, 2012
Sad and moving romance that I actually liked.
July 25, 2012
Absolutely amazing. Beautiful movie, beautiful piece of art, and I look forward to every time I get to sit down and watch it. A love movie up there with the likes of the Notebook and the Titanic. "Abso-fucking-loutely", as Eddie Birdlace says, amazing.
May 14, 2012
It's heartbreaking to see this film now that I am more familiar with River Phoenix's work. The character he plays is young and immature and trying so hard to appear tough. River brings a tenderness to the jackass marine we first encounter as Birdlace, so much so that we are able to empathize with his character even after the cruel way he uses Rose. The healing power of truly connecting with someone else is evident in the memorable evening Birdlace spends with the sweet and kind Rose, who doesn't appear like much at first glance but as the movie progresses it becomes clear how wonderful she is.
April 30, 2012
a small, quiet love story of sorts that takes place in the temporal/political outskirts of the vietnam conflict with understated but endearing performances. third or fourth viewing this time and i feel like i'm finally awake to appreciate all of the details and honor its narrative claim.
½ April 7, 2012
didn't care for the ending too much... like what about his friends? and is he home for good... no real closure... but overall was good...
March 8, 2012
I haven't seen a female cast this god damned ugly since 'Pink Flamingos.' John Waters would be proud. Of course, that's part of the films charm - it's rare we get to see the ugly girl get the guy, or vice versa.

And just for the record - Ruth Two Bears should have won.
January 21, 2012
It's good. Watch it.
January 11, 2012
This was actually a sweet little love story. I was pleasantly surprised, by how much I enjoyed it. It showed the "promise" of the wonderful actor, that River Phoenix would become, and how great he already was.
½ December 30, 2011
didn't care for the ending too much... like what about his friends? and is he home for good... no real closure... but overall was good...
½ December 29, 2011
Phoenix and Taylor are always Aces, and Brendan Fraser's screen debut.
Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2011
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.
½ November 1, 2011
River Phoenix! I never saw the first part of this.
½ October 5, 2011
There's somethiing about this movie that I like....
Super Reviewer
October 2, 2011
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.
September 24, 2011
Love this movie, especially River and Richard Panebianco
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2011
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.
July 11, 2011
Loved this movie. Great story and great acting. Makes you wonder what River Pheonix would have matured into.
May 10, 2011
This is such a good movie. It's one of those romantic dramas that shouldn't be missed! It has River Phoenix in a great role. Lili Taylor is also great!
May 5, 2011
In the Last Days of Innocence

This I will say. Lili Taylor is not the most attractive woman in the world, but she's an actress who has done well for herself despite being, at best, quirky-looking. I really think she's plain, which is different from ugly. However, she appears in roles where she's supposed to be human-looking. In most movies and TV shows, the plain person only has to do something with her hair and probably take off her glasses in order to be beautiful, and she only needs the right clothes to show off the beautiful body she certainly has. And while I don't think Lili Taylor becomes beautiful over the course of the movie, it becomes apparent that she isn't ugly, either. She becomes more comfortable with herself, and that makes her look better. She relaxes, and she is no longer concerned with how she'll appear to other people. This may in part be because she's already been hurt as much that night as she can be, so it's all uphill from there.

She plays Rose. River Phoenix plays Eddie Birdlace, a young Marine on his way to Okinawa. During a stop in San Francisco, he and various of his Marine buddies have what they call a "dogfight." Each man pays an entry fee, with which they rent a bar and buy plenty of food and drink. The remainder of the money goes as prizes. For the man who brings the ugliest girl. Eddie picks up Rose in her mother's diner and takes her, but when she gets off work, he realizes that she's not actually ugly and certainly not ugly enough to win. Not only that, but as they talk, he gets to actually like her. He tries to keep her from going, but any real admission would be to tell her what's going on. Only while she's there, she learns the truth from Marcie (Elizabeth Daily), a prostitute one of the men has hired to win the game against the rules. Rose reacts about the way you'd expect, which actually makes Eddie feel guilty. He ends up taking her on a real date, seeing all that can be seen in San Francisco in the middle of the night.

I do find it interesting that Eddie's personality is based in part on who he's with. As he spends more and more time with Rose, he softens. He stops being such a Guy. Phoenix was twenty-one at the time, and I think Eddie was even younger. He got his father to sign the paperwork so that he could join the Marines at sixteen. Though if, as he says, Eleanor Roosevelt was actually dead when he enlisted, he can be no older than a few days short of eighteen. Lili Taylor was a few years older than River Phoenix, and I think Rose probably was, too. She is practical, in no small part because she's never been able to be anything else. She's a bit wistful, too, because she wished she could have been. And when she spends time with Eddie, he starts to become a better person. But when he gets back with his Marine buddies, he goes back to having to impress them. He's young enough so that he almost certainly doesn't know who he is yet, and that may be why he agreed to be a part of such a cruel game in the first place.

The funny thing is that one of the guys gives up a chance to spend time with an attractive woman who seems genuinely interested in him so that he can pick up an ugly girl to mistreat. He has to show up the guys. I mean, he probably also wants to win the money, but the winnings aren't a heck of a lot over what he had to put in the pot to begin with. I'm certain he didn't think of it as being cruel. This is in part because I'm certain that he didn't think of the girl's feelings at all. This is not to say that I think he's a sociopath. I doubt most of the men involved in the "game" are. On the other hand, I didn't find it the slightest bit difficult to believe that guys would do this. I mean, for one thing, military training isn't exactly designed to heighten empathy. And, let's face it, young people aren't exactly the most in tune to people's feelings going in. The guys were just being young, selfish guys. Or, you know, young guys.

The challenge, then, was making River Phoenix both believable in his treatment of her and believable when he comes to regret it. This means it's another one of those roles almost custom-designed to make you regret someone's death. A little over two years after the movie's (extremely limited) release, River Phoenix died on a sidewalk in Los Angeles. Playing Rose basically took being plain and kind, which is not challenging. Though most actresses would have trouble truly managing the "plain" part. But with Eddie, he had to start young and dumb--young and [i]cruel[/i]--and from then go on to earn Rose's trust. And ours. We must believe that he now realizes he hurt her and doesn't mean to do it again. We must also, of course, know that there is still the risk of it. After all, at the end of the night, Eddie goes back to his friends, none of whom show the slightest remorse at their activities. His now being a good person who would shun his best friends wouldn't ring true, and even River Phoenix's talents couldn't overcome that.
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