Blog Home - Archives

Scarecrow on Seattle: DOGFIGHT

For the past few years, Scarecrow Video has been contributing reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest to the Seattle Office of Film + Music's e-newsletter. We're now proud to be able to share these reviews on our site as well.






Dogfight (1991)
On the day before President Kennedy's assassination, Marine Eddie Birdlace (River Phoenix) and his friends are about to ship off to Vietnam. Their last hurrah stateside is a "dogfight": Each soldier must find the ugliest date possible and bring her to a party where the soldier with "worst" date wins the cash pot. Birdlace's hunt takes him to a coffee shop, where he finds waitress Rose Feeney (Lili Taylor) crouched in a corner tuning a guitar. He takes one look at her messy rat-nest bouffant and decides she'll do. When she finds out the true nature of the party she punches him squarely in the face, but he follows her home and draws her back out into the night. Over their short time together we find two people who, despite seemingly opposite ideologies-she's an aspiring folk singer who truly believes music can change the world; he's a solider who thinks shooting changes things a lot quicker-just get each other. The film's strength lies in the realistic and seemingly effortless performances. Taylor makes Rose's idealism feel completely authentic. Phoenix's character is full of loud misdirected rage but remains vulnerable, showing the maturity he seemed to have in all his films. It's hard to believe he was only 23 when he died. Though the film takes place in San Francisco, it was shot mainly in town, and director Nancy Savoca and crew do a fine job of recreating the era and weave footage of the two cities together so well that even the native eye may have trouble distinguishing what is where. The first obvious Seattle landmark is the Paramount Theatre, which they pass by on their way to the dogfight. The actual party is at the Nitelite Lounge on 2nd Avenue, which was perfect for the era back in the early 1990s and hasn't changed much since. Rose's Coffee Shop appears to be somewhere on Ballard Avenue (look for Peg Phillips, aka Ruth-Ann from Northern Exposure, sitting by the window), and Phoenix woos Taylor while she refills shakers with Western Family Sugar. The couple makes a stop at Kaleenka Restaurant that was by the Market on 1st Avenue before he decides they can do better and they end up at the Sorrento Hotel. The exterior is correct but the inside is seems to be somewhere entirely different (though I don't know; I've never been past the lobby). Meanwhile, Birdlace's buddies roam about town getting tattoos, picking fights with sailors in an arcade, (including Brendan Fraser in his feature debut), and taking in a skin flick at the Moore Theatre.
--Jen Koogler


To post a comment, please login.