Female Filmmaker Friday: Dogfight (1991)

Female Filmmaker Friday: Dogfight (1991)

In February, I decided to dedicate my month to nothing but films directed by women. I had people asking me why I would do this. Why not though? It is more than just saying we need more women in the director’s chair. It is supporting the work that is currently out as well. I can only hope that the people calling for action in the industry for more inclusion of women are watching films directed by women. (Also written, scored, or shot by women as well)

Throughout social media, the hashtag #FemaleFilmmakerFriday parades timelines each passing Friday. Hopefully, people not only proclaim their love for a film directed by a woman, but continue to watch films by women and spread the word to individuals who are unaware of these pieces of work.

My February consisted of a bundle of films. I tapped into films by Nicole Holofcener, Elaine May, Lynne Ramsay, Julie Dash and more. I cannot say that I saw anything that I was turned off by. Between my busy schedule, I had the pleasure of seeing 19 films. Emotions are captured a lot better than any other films I have seen, and the connection was strong

To capitalize on the growing outcry for female directed voices, I have decided to monthly write about a film directed by a female that I believe people should see. I have always wanted to do this, and now I have a chance. Call this my monthly #FemaleFilmmakerFriday.


My first choice is a film that has stuck with me since watching it, 1991’s Dogfight by Nancy Savoca. This was a recommendation from a friend of mind and upon reading the synopsis, I knew my eyeballs needed this. It stars a young River Phoenix and Lili Taylor as they have a lovely night together before Phoenix is shipped off to war in 1963.

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Lance Corporal Eddie Birdlace (Phoenix) has 24 hours to do what he pleases in San Francisco with his other military friends. They decide to have a dogfight party, in which a Marine tries to bring the ugliest date possible. Eddie was turned down by many, but found his date in Rose Fenny (Taylor), a coffee shop waitress who is not ugly in any way, but lacks a social structure like Eddie’s. As the party approaches, Eddie realizes he does not want to play this cruel joke and tries to discourage Rose from attending. Rose heads into the dogfight anyway.

Secrets are revealed regarding stipulations about the party and Rose storms out in tears. Eddie apologizes and asks to treat her to dinner. Rose reluctantly agrees, and as the two get to know each other, they end up having the time of their lives. So much so that Eddie forgos meeting up with his buds for matching tattoos.

As the night closes, Rose hands her address to Eddie and tells him to write to her. He graciously accepts. After saying goodbye, he finally meets with his fellow Marines and they ask him why he dodged the tattoo appointment. Fumbling with wanting to reveal the truth, he fibs and says he was with an officer’s wife. His one friend knows the truth and confronts him. They agree to squash what they know, Eddie tears up the address, and they head off to war.

Combat is not easy and fatal incidents happen. Three years later, Eddie returns to San Francisco and sees how much the people and culture have changed. You can only guess what his goal was with this visit.

To say that this film is a heartwarming coming of age tale is an understatement. Taylor and Phoenix’s chemistry plays so well off of each other and their performances truly shine. We all have been in that position of having a crush and being nervous of the next move, and this movie displays all of that and more. You get to see true colors of individuals when they are with friends or with the one they love. There is a great outlook of life during a time that is so innocent prior to the upcoming war and time that will shatter spirits in the US.

An added bonus is the cameo appearance of Brendan Fraser. This was his first onscreen film role as a sailor who fights with Marines at the dogfight. Dogfight could have easily been a corny romance story bearing an exorbitant amount of masculinity due to the militaristic side of the story, however; we are graced with something so simple and loving. Garnished with score that is perfect for the times, Dogfight comes highly recommended.

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