This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Jake’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
(W/Director and Cast Commentary)
You know, it’s entirely possible that David Fincher is just too good at making movies.
I think that’s why Fight Club, even now, is such a divisive film. It’s a movie that’s so involving, absorbing, and engrossing that it’s fairly evident critiques and ‘point’ can sort of get lost in the minutiae of it all. It’s so easy to view it as nothing more than the story of a guy when he hits a breaking point, going completely insane as he and a mystery man begin to ascribe to this philosophy of pseudo-Buddhist male-centric ideology that slowly evolves into a cult. It’s really obvious what the movie is doing in hindsight, of course, like the book it’s based on it’s a distinctly sharp critique of toxic masculinity and self-obsession. The homoerotic subtext, the mind-melting level of hint dropping and absurd detail speckled throughout, it really takes a number of rewatches to absorb it all, to the point where it almost becomes difficult to remember what it was like to first watch this.
That’s probably the key of what makes Fight Club work, as opposed to say, The Art of Self Defense, a movie that whole-sale takes the plot of Fight Club, except it didactically explains to the viewer what the point is, what everything means, and what it’s ‘satirizing’ which basically destroys any element of meaningful critique at all. It’s of great importance that you never let the subtext of your piece just become the text, because it removes the communicative element inherent with film. There’s no room for extrapolation, and Fight Club gets this, and gives you a story and characters first, and a point second.
I’ve always described this movie as ‘utilitarian’ and in tandem, described Fincher as a very ‘utilitarian’ filmmaker. I mean in the sense that no second feels wasted. No cut feels out of place, the editing fires on all cyllinders all the time, every line of dialogue serves a very specific purpose, it’s all in service of being part of a greater whole, but it’s all so smooth and cohesive that it’s breezes by you. It’s dense, but also somehow palatable, which is not an easy middle ground to stand on. Every element inherent with the art of filmmaking is made maximal, to put it simply, Fight Club remains to be what is perhaps the movie that is the ‘most’ movie that ever movied.
I think that it’s easy to get caught up in what Fight Club DOES rather than what it IS, too. We remember the dialogue, specific scenes, the subliminal messaging, the French New Wave-esque editing (which is just so fucking excellent I CANNOT understate how important editing is in a film like this), the iconic twist, that killer ending, the Starbucks cups in every scene, it’s threatens to swallow it all while because there’s just so goddamn much HAPPENING. The first act in Fight Club has always been one of my favorites because it’s just so goddamn bonkers, it goes in eighty directions, changing every single scene, layered with darkly comedic absurdity that escalates more and more, it’s such a great hook, I remember feeling so caught off guard but weirdly transfixed when I first saw it. But I think this movie connects with people for a reason, and no, not the idiots who interpret Tyler Durden as some sort of masculine manifesto, I mean the people who watch this and see the story of a guy whose bogged down in the swamp of modernity and uses nihilism as a vehicle in order to convince him that he’s more important than he actually is. The story of a mediocre man trying his absolute best to be anything other than what he currently is, letting the worldview of counter culture infest him beyond reasonable limits in order to create a Frankenstein monster of the ideal man. There’s pieces of myself I see in this movie, a lot of it being my past self that I hate, but it forces me to confront and interrogate that self in a way that makes me realize I’ve grown. Maybe there was a part of me that identified with the movie for less than favorable reasons when I first saw it, even though I’m fairly certain I’ve always seen this as not endorsing the worldview of Tyler in any way. But it’s about being lost, being broken, and the incredible and fucking absurd ways we try to find and fix ourselves, and the result is a pitch black comedy about an ordinary guy who learns that finding oneself is difficult, but necessary in order to evolve. That’s what I love so much, it’s multifaceted in so many ways and this ridiculous movie devotes itself fully, focusing so hard on its ideas without an ounce of sacrifice in any way. In the commentary, Brad and Edward mention the philosophy of killing your parents, killing your teacher, killing your past self, and then killing God in a very non-literal way to reach actualization, and that’s basically why I find something so cathartic about this movie. You have to kill your idea of your perfect self in order to actually be a better person, because that projected perfection doesn’t exist. People are flawed, so even our idea of perfection is flawed, and Tyler Durden is that idea fully realized.
I highly recommend watching the commentary like I did, it lets you see just how difficult it was to accomplish so much of this, and the mindset the people who made it were in whilst doing it. In a movie where there’s just SO MUCH going on in every single scene, it’s amazing to see glimpses of what was going on behind the camera as it all plays out.... there’s honestly a lot more I could say and talk about, just cause this is one of those movies that made me fall in love with cinema as a whole, showing me what the art form was fully capable of at such a young age, it’s inspiring not just personally, but artistically. In a weird way, I think this is sort of an extension of my takeaway of Bergman’s ‘Persona’ as this is a movie made in order to fully flesh out a character and a struggle that could only be done in this medium, it’s just done in a style and aesthetic that appeals to me so strongly.
Christ I feel like I’m forgetting something... shit.
Sorry I guess I broke the first rule, oh well.