Directed by: David Fincher; Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter
I figure I should do the first “What We’re Watching” post about one of my favorite movies. Fight Club may not be the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it definitely occupies a special place in my heart. I watched it for the first time as an impressionable teenager, and afterwards, I was never quite the same. It was that revelation that first clued me in to the power of movies, and said revelation was one of the first things that made me want to be a filmmaker.
Now before I begin, yes, I’m aware that Fight Club was a novel by Chuck Palahniuk before it was a movie. And yes, I have read said book. It’s a damn good read, especially for those who don’t typically find themselves reading novels. In my opinion, it’s Palahniuk’s most accessible book. The punchy, matter-of-fact prose creates a nice rhythm that makes the chapters fly by. Its use of graphic imagery and violence toes the line of gratuitousness quite nicely. However, since Fight Club is Palahniuk’s first novel, many of its merits manifest thanks to a sort of accidental brilliance. This is not the case when you look at Fincher’s work on the film adaptation. At this point, I’ve seen the film so many times I can recite it by heart, so it’s safe to say that I’ve put it under a microscope. Fincher’s tireless attention to detail creates a movie watching experience that’s just as much fun the first time as it is the twentieth time.
The entire film moves at a pretty breakneck pace. The film’s narrator, “Jack” (effectively underplayed by Edward Norton), has a gun barrel pointed in his mouth in the film’s opening shot. From that moment on, its whip smart script and manic editing keep the pace as “tight as a drum”. Luckily, we have Norton’s monotone narration to guide us along. Typically, narration is a sign of poor screenwriting. Fight Club is an exception for tow reasons: one, the narration adds a level of wit and insight rather than simply move the plot along, and two, it pays homage to the spirit of Palahniuk’s novel, which exists primarily in the Narrator’s head. To foil Norton’s deadpan performance, we have Brad Pitt as the poetic anarchist Tyler Durden. Pitt adds two vital ingredients to the film. First is a perfectly toned physique that was absolutely stunning to behold as he bangs Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) or beats opponents in the ring to within an inch of their lives. Second is a wonderfully relaxed performance dripping with so much bravado that we can’t help but feel drawn to him—a sentiment echoed by our miserable and desperate protagonist.
The film uses the same approach to its action as it does with its humor: pull no punches; take no prisoners. Thus, any first viewing feels like your first fight—disorienting yet exhilarating. Upon subsequent viewings, you’re armed with a key piece of information that helps you appreciate all of Fincher’s subtle clues. Sure, a truly observant person can probably put two-and-two together on their first try, but there’s far more in this film than any one person can catch in one viewing. Fincher peppers in enough “easter eggs” to make any and all subsequent viewings just as enjoyable as the first, whether they be single frames of “nice big cock”, or tongue-in-cheek lines like “hmm, flashback humor”.
Before writing this review, I decided to peruse the “trivia” section of the film’s IMDB page, and discovered dozens of subtleties that flew over my head for viewing after viewing. Such details are proof of the careful attention to detail that David Fincher puts into every single frame of his films, a trait that every any artist can appreciate. But beyond that, Fight Club is a Fincher master work because of its blatant refusal to take anything too seriously—especially itself. It’s that sense of irreverent, man-boy-child play that permeates every line, cut, and special effect of this film. It’s no surprise that the film connected with so many males living at the turn of the 21st century, including and especially a very young and impressionable R.J. Aguiar.
So if you’re among the unfortunate few who have yet to see this cinematic diamond-in-the-rough, I urge you to join the club. Just know that the first rule of this club is that you don’t talk about it. And the second rule is that you don’t talk about it…
P.S. Those still interested in reading the book can check out Will’s old “Summer Fifteen” review here: