Dennis' First Fight Club Review
aka: Two and half years in the making
Why do I say 2 and a half years in the making? Answer: because that's when it began for me. Through the pipeline, from the grapevine, on the information highway, I basically gathered that a screenplay called "The Fight Club" written by a newcomer was gathering quite a buzz. It was "hot" as the industry called it. Already, a minor war had began over who would get the rights to it....etc. I took it upon myself to delve further into this mysterious screenplay finding out little more then that it was a movie about yuppies beating the crap out of each other. Interested??? Not really.
I walk into Borders Books and Music on Old Country Road in Westbury New York, Long Island to browse the magazine stands. An old hobby of mine....I'm a magazine whore. Really, just ask me what my room looks like. I'm addicted. It's not pretty. The date is springtime....sometime, early 1997. I grow tired of the magazines and head over towards the "New Paperbacks" table. It is there that a very cool looking cover grabs my eye. ....see below:
I check it out and upon further inspection notice the title....Fight Club<....hmmmm, could this-- is this the same---- wait, this was a book too?---
I read the back of the book and sure enough, it's the same. The script was an adaptation of a book with a really cool cover. Interesting. The plot thickens. And so I buy it.
I can't get into it.
It's too "weird". I'm not in that "frame of mind" to get into a book written in this kind of style. Some guy with tits hugging some other poor loser who's a "faker?" What the hell was this shit? I pass it on to my dear friends Amy and Josh.
They swallow it up. The read it in less than a week. They swallow it up. They spit it out on me. I feel like an idiot. I missed the boat. I was the driver and I hopped out before the destination at a truck stop to get a beef jerky and then the car started again without me and I ran after it like a moron with my arms flailing in the air only to get assaulted by exhaust smoke.
Fight Club and I pound it out again...this time I win. This time I'm hooked. Who is this guy? How do you pronounce his name? What's up with that turtle neck?
Fight Club for me was a threat because it was different. Mind you, it wasn't the themes and the content that threatened me. It was the force with which this Oregon writer assaulted the page. I felt left out. I couldn't keep up even though the words in front of me weren't going anywhere.
But in the end, I knew I had a classic on my hands. Fight Club became a cult favorite among my group of book reading friends. We discussed it thoroughly over late night diner meals. We passed it around to others. We thirsted for more....but what else was there? Survivor wasn't even out yet.
Late 98 - 99.
A storm is coming.
It's name is one of my favorite directors.
It's name is David Fincher.
It's name is anticipation.
It's name is Brad Pitt.
It's name is Edward Norton.
It's name is FIGHT CLUB the motion picture!!!!
It's name is Courtney Love??? NOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooo-WAIT!!!
She's out. Helena Bonham Carter is in. Cool. Thank God, I got scared there for a minute. Okay, Fincher is still cool in my mind. Anyway, fast forward to the summer of 99' where, upon visiting a friend in San Francisco, I finally locate a hardcover version of Fight Club and read it in one sitting on the plane ride home... no collisions. And the second time around, Fight Club takes on awholenother meaning to me. You pick up sooo much more. God, our narrator even says what he is one time early in the book.
And so I read it again and was even more hooked now for the movie. I am Joe's Gutwrenching Anticipation: the movie is scheduled for July 16th....I see the teaser trailer....the movie is delayed till July 30th....I hunt down the poster to no avail....the movie is delayed till August 6th....Columbine controversy reaches it's peak, violence in the media!!!....the movie is delayed to....October 15th???? You gotta be fucking kiddin' me?
This is where you and I catch up. This is where I have seen the trailer and read Invisible Monsters and met Chuck Palahniuk and created this whole web site thing....this is October.
And so, on Friday the 15th, I walked into the Loews Sony Theater in Levitown, New York. I walked in with too much anticipation. Too many high hopes. Shit, I even announced to my parents upon leaving the house before the movie, "Tonight, I leave to see what could be the best movie I will ever see in my life." Better than Aliens? No, I was just saying that. Nothing could ever be better than James Cameron's action masterpiece. Still, a part of me felt like it could approach my Top 5. Hell, how could it go wrong? An excellent book adapted into an excellent script, directed by THE director with THE cast. The reviews had been great; the trailer had become natural computer viewing for me on a daily basis. I KNEW this film would not suck.
And taking all of this with me into the theater with no candy in my hands, a faster pace to my stride than usual, and a look of glazed euphoria in my eyes....I grabbed a seat.
I saw Fight Club....and I....wrote this review.
And now... the review:
October 15th, 1999
The Regency logo appeared. The sound of brain fluid filled the theater from the soundtrack. It was beginning. I looked at Amy for assurance: Was this really happening? The fact that she didn't even notice me looking at her was proof. The record needle was placed and Fight Club blew up on to the screen.
Okay, now let me take this brief moment to explain how I am going to review this film. First off, this is not going to be your typical movie review. Because this is not your typical movie. But more so, because this is a film adaptation of a book we all love dearly. And we are not a movie site. We are a book-oriented site. Our first and foremost aim is Chuck and his work. Therefore, I am going to review Fight Club as an analysis and comparison between the book and the movie.
So, let it begin...
I love The Dust Bros score for this film. I bought it two weeks before the movie and have actually heard it through over five times now. For a soundtrack like this that goes in so many directions, that is not easy. And while I like around 85% of the songs, the one that I definitely don't like is the one that Fincher decided to open the film with. Why didn't I like it? Because the song is an aggressive, free-for-all thrash anthem. It cuts away any feeling you might've had for the precision of the brain pull-away that you are left distracted by it. The credits flash on to the screen and then come apart as this CGI camera shot continues. Think of CONTACT. For me, silence is always more powerful than loudness. So the opening shot of CONTACT worked brilliantly. With nothing but silence, we the viewers are forced to aim all our concentration on the image. And it becomes something more in the process. Here, I felt like I was watching some IMAX, 3-D rollercoaster ride, and while I understand that Fincher wanted to literally throw the film in your lap, I would've preferred to be left with nothing but the awesome image of a brain in chaos. I might've even saved the credits for the end.
Still, when it cuts to that shot of the gun in Jack's (I will call him Jack for this review even though that was a critic's misinterpretation and Fincher never intended Norton to be known as Jack) with Tyler standing over him, I felt giddy once again. Any annoyance that I might've felt at the blaring credit sequence was immediately washed away. In fact, there was little that I could dispute about the next 30 mins of film that was laid before me. Mind you, I wasn't there to dispute anything. But my mind was racing, clouding, trying to take it ALL in...and so I was in overdrive.
I love the way Fincher paid attention to those few chapters early in the book where Jack rides the meeting-circuit, bouncing from session to session. I love Marla's entrance. I love the tour we are given of Jack's apartment and I laughed out loud when he was on the toilet ordering from the IKEA catalogue. I was seeing Chuck's words. Oh, my God. This can't be happening. Fincher's actually pulling it off.
And just when I felt he might be spending a little too much time with this segment of the film (the long scene between Jack and Marla in the street which carries down the sidewalks, into a Laundromat, down the sidewalks, into the street, down the sidewalks, into a thrift shop, down the sidewalks...) BOOM! Jack is on the airplane. What follows is a beautiful, freshly-paced montage of hectic airplane traveling. I loved this collection of scenes. The voice-over worked perfectly with it. Especially when Jack says, "You might even wake up as someone else." just as Tyler goes by behind him on the moving walkway.
Once Jack and Tyler get to conversing on the airplane, I was in ecstasy again. The chemistry between them was perfect. Having Pitt not arrive in the film until about 35 minutes in was perfect. You almost forget he's in the movie until he pops up. Yet when he does, it is such a fresh dose. You're so ready to embrace him. You look so forward to what comes next.
What comes next is excellent filmmaking. It is safe to say that it's one of the most memorable sequences in the book. I'm talking about how Jack and Tyler get to know one another. We even get a surprise here. You see, for me, I always wanted to know what Jack and Tyler talked about in the bar. In the book it only says how they drank a lot of beer. The chapter ends with that line we all know so well, "I want you to hit me as hard as you can." But screenwriter Jim Uhls has constructed a great set-up here. He hints at Tyler's notions and theories. From the airplane on, we start to realize that Tyler has a way of seeing the world. He doesn't skirt around topics. He says what he feels and he expects you to do the same. This is an element that isn't pin-pointed in the book. It just sort of is.
So when Tyler says that line, you believe him. You know he means business. And I love the way Norton argues with him. His disbelief over the absurdity of the situation.
Now for the next 30 mins, Fincher had quite a task ahead of him. In the book, Palahniuk groups most of the Tyler tidbits (such as the porno frames, pissing in soups etc.) into Jack's thinking process. Jack nods off and prays for death while in-between each sentence, we learn a little more about Tyler. In fact, it makes a lot of sense but would never translate well to the screen. And so Uhls divides them. By this point, we already know how Jack feels. We've seen him at work. We've seen him weep into Bob's bitch tits. And we've even seen his hopes (when the planes collide....brilliant). So now we have room to explore and meet Tyler. A perfect division.
I missed the fucking movie theater cock-frame. For an instance, I turned my head and WHAMOOOO, it was gone. Came and went, bye, bye Dennis you stupid asshole. You just had to turn your head and miss that, didn't you. Don't worry, it will come again.
Hmmm, Fincher cut the perfume scene.
Wait....I thought Jack was with Tyler on the elevator when he pisses in the soup.
"Gentlemen, welcome to Fight Club." Here we go. Here is where all the controversy is aimed. These are the scenes that will make people start fight clubs all across the world. This is where I'll puke from the brutality. The senseless violence. The chaos.... (media sarcasm drips)
No, not quite. In fact, it was exactly what I expected it to be. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't glorified. It wasn't exploitation. It was horrible. It made sense. I felt it. I feared it. I understood it. Bravo.
Who is this Italian, Vinny Goombotz character that Pitt is splurging on?
Brilliant bits within the fight club sequences:
1) Tom Waits permeates the soundtrack as Tyler leads the men into the bar and down the basement steps.
2) Tyler explains the rules of fight club.
3) Jack at work...no one makes eye contact...
4) Everything in the Paper Street house. I laughed so hard when Pitt wiped out on the bike.
I must take this time to point out how accurately Fincher nailed the dimensions of the scenes between Marla and Tyler and then Marla and Jack. Great blocking of scenes. The way Pitt would enter just as she left and vice-versa. I especially loved the scene where he was in the basement telling Jack what to say.
Where was the scene where Marla demands to know what Jack did with her dead mother... the soap he made out of her collected fat?
Speaking of soap... the lye/kiss scene could be the best in the film. Norton's acting shook me and the use of subliminal editing perfectly captured the moment.
Handled to a "t." Sure, the robotic ways of the Space Monkey's didn't translate too well for me. Almost seemed comical sometimes: "Wait, so in death, we have a name..." (I felt embarrassed for actor who delivered that line)
Surprised that they showed Big Bob's death scene since I read that it would only be told and not shown.
Loved the bits where they showed you all the things that Tyler and crew were doing to fuck with normal-day society. Even the things Fincher added like the bird shit and the airplane promos.
Raymond K. Hessel.
Ruined. Wasted. Rushed. The execution of this scene really ticked me off. Especially since I thought that there was no way they would get it that wrong. Hell, even Palahniuk himself told us that it had such an impact in Venice. Did it impact me? NO.
Because I don't think Fincher truly understood the weight of this scene. I mean, this is Chapter 20 we're talking about. If, to understand the themes in Fight Club, you were only allowed to read one chapter, THIS would be the chapter to read. It perfectly sums up what Palahniuk is going for. I treat is as poetry. In the film, it was betrayed.
First of all, what the hell was Pitt doing in the scene? Sure, you can dispute this since, in essence, he is in every scene... but I don't buy that. He did not need to be there. If you would have had Norton there alone, it would have shown you the full extent in which he had fallen under Tyler's sway ("These are Tyler's words coming out of my mouth.."). And why was Raymond yanked out of the convenience store like that? That reduced the weight of the act and made it come across like a robbery. Do you really believe that Raymond Hessell thought this was anymore than a prank to scare him shitless?
In the book, Raymond is walking home from work. To a bus stop. It is quiet. He is alone. And this is when he comes across Jack. Jack holds the gun to his face. He presses the nuzzle too close. He holds out his wallet to him, showing him the picture of his parents. He speaks softly. I know this, because this is how Palahniuk reads the scene at live readings. He takes time with the words. The act almost becomes beautiful. It is a deliverance for Raymond. An initiation for him.
In the film, it is none of these things. Raymond is reduced to a blubbering idiot. Tyler throws him to his knees, execution style. Jack complains and whines in the background. They yell. Tyler belts out the lines in a clichéd, threatening manner. I don't even think Raymond hears them all. He is too busy spitting out saliva and crying hysterically. In fact, the performance is so bad it seems comical. And when he runs home, it is so possible that he running to the nearest police station. Why wouldn't he? Did Tyler spare his life, or was he just fucking with him from the start? Of course, we know the answer. But then why does he yell, "Run, Forrest, run!" He's gets too much enjoyment out of the situation.
It is not supposed to be enjoyable. It is a wakeup call. A sad one. But the only way.
I really can't complain about much more of Project Mayhem. Fincher covered almost everything in it. Sure, he botched the order of the Angelface scenes. Even added a new character in (standing on the doorstep) that was supposed to be Angelface but... he nailed so much. Even the minor things like the Space Monkey raking the dirt around Jack and Marla as they walked and talked.
He didn't kill his boss.
There was no mechanic/birthday cake/computer explosion in his office.
Stop it, Dennis.
He nailed so much. So what did I love about the film?
I loved the attack of it all. The rush of it all. It never let up. It was funny, dark, unique, clever, disturbing, thought-provoking...
Great direction, writing, acting, cinematography, editing, set design... I mean, this was some of the best of the best. This was an above average film. Surpassing par by a longshot. Is it my favorite David Fincher film? Probably not. It's needs time to digest.
Is it my favorite movie of the year even? Maybe. Not sure yet. I need to see it at least two more times.
As an adaptation, it was amazing, but not flawless. But, I really can't complain. Even the ending shot of the buildings exploding was such a nice touch. I didn't mind that Fincher avoided the hospital/heaven thing. The explosions were such a rare and beautiful image that I was in awe sitting there as The Pixies faded in.
I walked outside and I DID want to hit someone. In fact, I want to hit myself right now for sitting here when I should be going to see it again.
So ignore all of the above. It is my downloaded thoughts on screen. And my thoughts are flawed. I cannot pay this film its true review until I see it again. So expect an updated version of this soon. But for now, take it for the mess that it is.