Duranalysis: Falling Down
After a hiatus of, oh, six or seven months, Duranalysis has returned.
For something new and different, we’re moving out of Duran Duran’s golden era and heading all the way up to 2007 with a look at the video for “Falling Down”, the only single released off their Timbaland/Justin Timberlake-produced Red Carpet Massacre album. The song wasn’t a hit, but the video, which was directed by Anthony Mandler, is stylish and sleazy and fun. Let’s hit it:
In the backseat of a limousine, a father gives a pep talk to his beautiful teen daughter, whom he is dropping off at a rehabilitation hospital. He’s trying to sell her on the whole rehab concept (“It’s like school. It looks better than your school!”), but she’s having none of it.
The daughter is played by model Allie Crandell, formerly of MTV’s scripted reality series The City. She’s lovely, but really, she looks like a kid. It’s right for the role, don’t get me wrong—after all, the Durans claim they loosely based her character on Britney Spears (this would have been more topical in 2007)—but I’m old enough and curmudgeonly enough not to want to see kids in Duran Duran videos. Duran videos have long been known for their gorgeous, worldly women, many of whom seem far too adult and sophisticated for the guys to handle—think Shelia Ming clawing the hell out of Simon in “Hungry Like the Wolf”, or Patricia Barzyk zipping around the French countryside on a motorcycle before cheerfully betraying the boys to the occupying forces in “New Moon on Monday”, or Reema Ruspoli kicking Roger into the surf in “Rio.” Here, we get Allie whining to her dad that she can’t bring champagne into rehab. Oh, how times have changed.
Allie staggers up to the hospital entrance, half-dragged by a pair of orderlies, stilettos falling off her feet. This video was shot at the long-abandoned Linda Vista Community Hospital in downtown Los Angeles. It’s a great building, old and decaying and rumored to be haunted (from the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures website: “Three spirits in particular have been sighted on multiple occasions: a little girl lurks in the surgical room; a young woman paces the hallways of the third floor; and the spirit of an orderly still makes his daily rounds”). Not that the presence of a little non-corporeal activity would bother Duran Duran in the slightest; I’m pretty certain Nick Rhodes drinks the blood of various supernatural creatures each morning for breakfast in lieu of coffee. Or he would, at least, if he could be bothered to get out of bed early enough.
The hospital is staffed by all the Durans. There’s Doctor Simon in his office, surrounded by files, looking adorably brainy in his white coat and spectacles. Because he is Simon Le Bon, he’s perpetually flanked by a sexy nurse sporting tons of visible cleavage.
Doctor Simon leads the rehab patients, all of whom are languid young beauties in feathers and sequins and underwear and strange hats and stilettos, in a group therapy session. Popular rehab leisure-time activities at this facility include chain-smoking, knitting, tearing up fashion magazines, bathing while clothed, and posing for selfies with Simon’s sexy nurse. This video could be pretty unsavory—a gaggle of half-dressed, drugged-out, vulnerable young women are trapped in a grim, creepy, asylum-like hospital in the care of a bunch of older men—but, hell, this is Duran Duran we’re talking about. Even now that they’re all safely ensconced in middle age, they still have more in common with the patients than the doctors: the beauty, the glamour, the outlandish fashions, the dissolute behavior, the constant state of chaos... They’re playing doctors; they’re identifying with the patients.
(Duran Duran will take this concept to its logical conclusion a few years later in 2011’s fabulous “Girl Panic” video, in which a quintet of glamorous, gorgeous, world-famous supermodels—Naomi, Cindy, Helena, Eva and Yasmin—portray the Durans, while the Durans themselves hover about in small supporting roles. As music journalist Rob Sheffield put it in his memoir, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, “[Duran Duran] liked girls enough to want to look like girls.”)
Ah, there’s Our Nick, peeping through windows and running around with a camera and being admirably strange, as per usual. File this under Goes Without Saying: If you find yourself ambushed by a Super 8-wielding Nick Rhodes while you’re just trying to detox and recuperate in peace, it’s time to check yourself into a different hospital.
The lovely John Taylor, meanwhile, administers pills to the patients. Man. John Taylor. All the Durans still look good, but John, man, John has aged beautifully. Considering all he’s been through over the past thirty years of hyper-celebrity, he should be a withered, desiccated husk of a Duran by now. That bone structure hasn’t failed him yet.
None of the band members, by the way, are at all plausible as medical professionals. I don’t care how many clipboards you tote around, Simon, I still don’t buy you as a doctor. Mind you, the Durans have convincingly portrayed a wide variety of characters in their videos. Killer spies? Sure. Post-apocalyptic warriors? Yep. Weapons-smuggling revolutionaries? No problem. Zombie bait? Absolutely.
Doctors? Nah. I don’t see it.
Although… Partial credit to Roger here. Roger is somewhat plausible as a doctor. I wouldn’t burst into giggles if he waved a stethoscope in my general direction, at least, so that counts for something.
Performance time! All the patients gather in the rec room to listen to the band. New patient Allie, who has been having some difficulties adjusting to rehab life, has to be wrestled to her seat by the orderlies. Naturally, this all happens while she’s clad in nude underwear and a feathered shrug. The Department of Public Health might be verrrry interested in learning about some of this facility’s, ah, unconventional treatment practices.
During the performance, we see several shots of Nick singing along, which… well, that’s just wrong. I’m pretty sure the band is just messing with us, because if there’s one constant in this crazy and unstable universe, it’s that Nick does not sing. Onstage, Nick plays his keyboards while looking icy and glamorous and otherworldly, and that’s it. Seeing Nick singing his heart out seems vaguely unnatural, like seeing him without his makeup. Some things simply aren’t done.
(There’s a little behind-the-scenes piece about “Falling Down” on YouTube, in which a reporter visits the set and asks the guys about their personal interpretations of the video. Simon gets literal (“The concept of the video is models in rehab”), Roger gets earnest (“It’s all about people going through bad times and how they cope with it”), and Nick gets straight to the heart of the matter (“Basically, it’s girls dressed up in nurse’s uniforms and nice shoes”). This sort of response is why Nick is still the unparalleled master of the Art of Being a Duran.)
And then, finally, Allie leaves the hospital, looking confident and healthy. She crawls back into the limo with her dad, where she immediately pops a cork and swills some champagne.
This ending didn’t sit well with John, who’s been sober since going through rehab for alcoholism and addiction in 1994. As he told People, “I didn't like that at all. I wanted it to be a little more ambiguous at the end, because I'm a believer in recovery.” Huge props to John, by the way, because it can’t be easy staying sober when you’re a world-famous pop star. Staying sober when you’re a world-famous pop star in Duran Duran? That’s got to be damn near impossible. Look, when these fabulous bitches go on tour, they travel with a custom-made portable wine cellar. It holds 120 bottles! If anyone ever suggested that it might seem somewhat callous and inconsiderate to lug around 120 bottles of excellent wine when traveling with a recovering alcoholic who also happens to be one of your closest friends in the world, Simon would probably yawn and wander off, and Nick would roll his beautifully-lined eyes and patiently explain that, see, he likes traveling with a lot of wine, and the subject would never be raised again.
And as Allie’s limo pulls away from the hospital over the opening bars of “Notorious”, the video draws to a close. Fine stuff.