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A Sharp Stick In the Eye

May 31st, 2009 · 21 Comments

Fight Club (1999)
Screenplay by Jim Uhls and Andrew Kevin Walker (uncredited), based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Directed by David Fincher
Produced by Fox 2000/ Art Linson Productions/ Regency Enterprises
Running time: 139 minutes

Fight Club, 1999, poster Fight Club, 1999, DVD

What the *&#! Is This About?

“People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden,” narrates a young man we will come to know only as the Narrator (Edward Norton) as someone holds a gun barrel in his mouth. Minutes before he’s to witness dozens of office buildings explode in controlled demolition, The Narrator explains how he got here. Sleepwalking through life as an insurance claims adjuster for a major car company and gripped in what he refers to as “the Ikea nesting instinct,” he comments, “I’d flip through catalogs and wonder, ‘What kind of dining set defines me as a person?’” Unable to sleep, the Narrator crashes support groups for testicular cancer, blood parasites or sickle cell anemia, finding that when people think you have a terminal disease, they listen to you.

The Narrator’s catharsis is threatened by the appearance of another faker, Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), who attends group therapy because “It’s cheaper than a movie and there’s free coffee.” The Narrator’s day job sends him across the country investigating fatal car crashes to determine if a recall would be cost effective for his company. He dreams of a midair collision to break the monotony, while seated next to him, a dapper soap peddler named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) demonstrates how ridiculous the emergency landing procedures on an airliner are. When he returns home to find his apartment has mysteriously exploded, the Narrator meets Tyler for a drink. His new buddy points out the Narrator’s dependence on consumer culture. “The things you own end up owning you.”

Fight Club, 1999, Edward Norton, Brad Pitt

In the parking lot, Tyler asks the Narrator for a favor. “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” If for no other reason than they’ve never been in a fight, the men wail on each other before calling it a night. The Narrator is invited to crash at the decrepit house Tyler occupies between jobs as a renegade caterer and film projectionist. The boys’ nocturnal fisticuffs start drawing the attention of other disaffected young men. Tyler gives it a name – Fight Club – and sets some ground rules. “The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” Marla re-enters the Narrator’s life when she and Tyler meet and engage in round the clock, rambunctious sex in the house. Tyler then hatches a plan to expand the social anarchy of Fight Club from the basement to the streets.

Who Should Be Held Responsible?
After graduating the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Chuck Palahniuk returned to his hometown of Portland and wrote for a local newspaper (The Oregonian) for a time. He ended up having to take work writing service procedures for freight trucks. It was during a trip to the Pacific Coast Trail that Palahniuk got into a dispute with some campers. The author recalled, “The other people who were camping near us wanted to drink and party all night long, and I tried to get them to shut up one night, and they literally beat the crap out of me. I went back to work just so bashed, and horrible looking. People didn’t ask me what had happened. I think they were afraid of the answer. I realized that if you looked bad enough, people would not want to know what you did in your spare time. They don’t want to know the bad things about you. And the key was to look so bad that no one would ever, ever ask. And that was the idea behind Fight Club.”

Fight Club, 1999, Edward Norton

Palahniuk used his newfound affinity for brawling to write Fight Club over a three-month period in 1995. He later mused, “I never expected the book to be published. I had been rejected so many times because my work was seen as too dark and depressing, that when I sent off Fight Club, I thought it was just a fuck off to New York publishing. It was my last gesture.” But within weeks of sending a first draft to his agent, the galleys came to the attention of Raymond Bongiovanni, a literary scout for Fox 2000 in New York. He phoned president of production Laura Ziskin, who recalled, “He was very excited about it, not sure it was a movie, but sure he had read the work of an exciting new voice. Thirty six hours later I was sitting on the edge of my bed in the middle of the night reading passages of the book out loud to my husband.”

Big name producers had passed on the book before it got to Joshua Donen and Ross Bell, who were enthusiastic about the material. Donen ultimately zeroed in on David Fincher – the director of Seven – imploring him to read Fight Club. Amid protests that he was too busy, Fincher finally cracked open the book. He later recalled, “It’s sardonic, it’s sarcastic, and naïve, and cynical and funny. I knew Marla. I knew the Narrator, I knew the Narrator’s attraction and repulsion to Marla, I knew his need for Tyler. I knew why he looks up to Tyler. I just knew it.” Much to the amazement of everyone involved with the project at that point, Fox expressed interest in actually producing Fight Club. Ross Bell reportedly told friends, “This is a seditious movie about blowing up people like Rupert Murdoch.” Fincher had sworn never to make a movie at the Murdoch owned studio again after the ordeal he’d gone through over his first feature film, Alien³.

Fight Club, 1999, Brad Pitt

David Fincher recalled, “I didn’t have a very good time with Fox the first time, so I was basically going thinking, ‘Oh, no that’s over with.’ But Josh called and told me to just go in and talk with Laura Ziskin, and tell her that I wanted to make it. So I do – I go in and talk with Laura Ziskin and I told her, ‘Here’s the movie I’m interested in making and I’m not interested in watering any of this shit down. I’m not interested in explaining, but I think I can make a movie that you don’t need to have read the book in order to understand what’s going on. I have no interest in making this anything other than what this book is, which is kind of a sharp stick in the eye.’ She was very cool with it. We could have made it a three million dollar or five million dollar Trainspotting version, or we could do the balls-out version where planes explode and it’s just a dream and buildings explode and it’s for real – which is the version I preferred to do – and she backed it.”

Fincher proposed developing a script on his own, without taking a fee, but also without studio executives needling him with notes. After eight months working with screenwriters Jim Uhls and Andrew Kevin Walker and producer Art Linson, Fincher came back with a script, a $60 million budget, a schedule – including stages on the studio lot that Fincher wanted to shoot in – and two leading men, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. Norton recalled, “Fincher sent me the novel, and I read it in one sitting. It’s obviously a surreal piece that operates at an almost allegorical level within someone’s madness, and I felt immediately that it was on the pulse of a zeitgeist I recognized. It speaks to my generation’s conflict with the American material values system at its worst. I guess I’ve felt for a long time that a lot of the films that were aimed at my generation were some baby boomer perception of what Gen-X was about. They seemed to be tailored to a kind of reductive image of us as slackers and to have a banal, glib, low-energy, angst-ridden realism, none of which I or anyone I know relates to.”

Fight Club, 1999, Helena Bonham Carter, Edward Norton

After presenting their package, Fincher and Linson gave Fox three days to decide whether they were in or out. The next day, the studio agreed to produce Fight Club. Studio chairman Bill Mechanic had become an advocate of the project. To afford Fincher’s vision, he reached out for $25 million from Arnon Milchan and his New Regency Enterprises. In order for Fincher to get his budget – which had climbed to $67 million – the director surrendered final cut to his financiers, but Milchan still wanted the director to bring his budget down to $62 million, arguing that Rupert Murdoch – the media tycoon who owned Fox – would not see this as a good investment. Fincher dug in, reportedly saying, “That $5 million is not going to come from Eastman Kodak, it’s not going to come from Teamsters, it’s going to come from visual effects, it’s going to come from sets, from costumes, it’s going to come right off the screen. It’s going to come from the moments they want in the fucking trailer.” Milchan passed on co-financing the picture.

In June 1998, Fight Club commenced a 100-day shooting schedule around Los Angeles. Once he got a look at three weeks of footage Fincher had shot, Arnon Milchan changed his mind about getting involved in the film; he agreed to split the risk with Fox. In early 1999, after 10 weeks of editing, Fincher screened a cut of Fight Club for the top brass at the studio. The screening was not met with enthusiasm. Mechanic delivered the news to Fincher: the movie was simply too long and too violent. Laura Ziskin elaborated on the concern at Fox. “I was afraid of it. I thought it was really smart, it had real ideas in it, and that’s hard. I was afraid. Could we sell it? I was always afraid of that.” Many at the studio had a far stronger reaction. Mechanic recalled, “There were people who abhorred it. They’d walk up to me and say, ‘I hated it.’”

Fight Club, 1999, Brad Pitt

When Fight Club premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 1999, the bad taste was amplified among critics. Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times: “What’s most troubling about this witless mishmash of whiny, infantile philosophizing and bone-crunching violence is the increasing realization that it actually thinks it’s saying something of significance.” Anita Busch, the Hollywood Reporter: “The film is exactly the kind of product that lawmakers should target for being socially irresponsible in a nation that has deteriorated to the point of Columbine.” Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun Times that Tyler Durden came off “sounding like a man who tripped over the Nietzsche display on his way to the coffee bar in Borders. In my opinion, he has no useful truths. He’s a bully – Werner Erhard plus S&M, a leather club operator without the decor.”

Bill Mechanic later mused, “I had wanted the Pauline Kaels of today – and there isn’t one – to provide a context for understanding the film. Forget about whether you liked it or not. There should be people who see things in a broader context, and there aren’t. I understand not liking the movie. I don’t understand not understanding the movie, or not thinking that it’s an important film.” Laura Ziskin was also one of the few supporters of Fight Club left in the film industry. “A lot of people condemned the movie without seeing the movie. But it is a scary movie. I think that’s right. It was at the crest of something.” Fight Club came and went from theaters in the U.S. with $37 million in grosses. Even after adding $63.8 million overseas, it was deemed a commercial failure.

Fight Club, 1999

But on college campuses and in repertory theaters, screenings of Fight Club were selling out. A few journalists started rethinking their reaction to the film. In the independent student newspaper of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Samuel McKewon wrote, “Fight Club is an essential movie for the 21st Century – one of the few out there – that skewers materialism with such a bold, fierce bravado, and certainly, you wonder what all the fuss over American Beauty was for. The latter has ice water running through its veins; it’s detached, damning, judgmental. Fight Club has hot, black blood running through its two-hour-plus running time. It judges by showing.” By the time the DVD arrived – with four commentary tracks and subversive menus – even Entertainment Weekly ranked Fight Club #1 on its list of “The 50 Essential DVDs.”

While Fight Club was dying a quick death at the box office, Edward Norton offered his take on whether the film was socially irresponsible. “You can’t not pursue a creative statement because of the fear it will be misinterpreted. If you did, nothing of any substance would get done.” He added, “Many of the things that have been called subversive are regarded as classics now, including much of Oscar Wilde. Because some men pursue their sexual obsessions with young girls, does that mean Nabokov shouldn’t have written Lolita? Should Martin Scorsese not have made Taxi Driver because there was the potential that someone like John Hinckley would use it as the excuse for his particular pathology? I think the answer to that is definitely no. Art has an important role in holding up a mirror to the things that are unhealthy in a culture.”

Fight Club, 1999, Edward Norton

Should I Care?
Mixing brooding atmosphere, wildly inappropriate information – “Did you know if you mixed equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate you can make napalm?”- perversely twisted black comedy and a wry mockery of the consumer culture that most of the audience participated in daily, Fight Club was the film version of a Molotov cocktail. 10 years later, it’s still riled up about the state of the planet; the only difference is that after 9/11, Enron, Martha Stewart’s fall from grace and Britney Spears’ ascension to near royalty, audiences seem to have caught on with what Chuck Palahniuk was getting at in the mid-1990s. Going back to watch Fight Club again is like downloading Nostradamus to a techno vibe.

From screenplay to David Fincher’s visionary direction, casting to music (The Dust Brothers composed the groovy synthesizer score), editing (James Haygood) to sound, the film delivers a 9.0 to a 9.5 in virtually every routine it puts on the floor. There’s not really a flaw exposed in the entire movie. Marla Singer may be the only female character of consequence, but this morbidly creative heroine is anything but eye candy, expressing herself in wonderfully kooky ways, like talking on the phone with the cord wrapped around her throat. Gleefully sardonic moments like that demand the film be seen more than once, if for no other reason than to savor the terrific plot twist 1 hour and 50 minutes in and how it rewires the viewing experience. If Fight Club isn’t a masterpiece, I’m not sure what is.

© Joe Valdez

Fight Club, 1999, Brad Pitt

Where Are You Getting This *&#!?
“Fighting Talk” By Graham Fuller. Interview, November 1999

“Todd Doogan Interviews Director David Fincher” By Todd Doogan. The Digital Bits, May 2000

“Bruise Control” By Stuart Jeffries. The Guardian, 12 May 2000

Rebels On The Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System
. By Sharon Waxman. HarperCollins (2005)

Tags: Based on novel · Bathtub scene · Black comedy · Cult favorite · Dreams and visions · Famous line · Femme fatale · Paranoia

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rachel // Sep 30, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    One of the greatest films of all time…no question about it. People get too hung up on the violence and people are stupid, so they don’t “get it.”

    I remember watching this in the theater nearly 10 years ago and really liked it at the time, but didn’t come to appreciate it till years later, after gaining a little life experience and perspective after college. Now it’s one of my Top 3 favorite films. I can’t imagine my movie library without this film.

    And I miss the “cigarette burn” in movies nowadays, since everything’s gone digital.

    Great write-up, Joe!

  • 2 Mrs. Thuro's Mom // Sep 30, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    There is nothing more frustrating than spending your hard-earned money on a film only to forget everything about it 5 minutes after it ends. We certainly didn’t have that problem with this one! The 1 thing Rachel & I really value in a movie is originality and Fight Club delivers on that score. I suppose I can understand people not liking the movie, but I don’t understand how they can completely miss the point and I certainly don’t understand how they cannot absolutely love the black humor. We certainly did! This is one of my favorites, too. I’m glad you agree.

  • 3 Moviezzz // Oct 1, 2008 at 7:14 am

    I have never been in the “this is one of the greatest films of all time” camp. I liked it, but after seeing it is when Paul Thomas Anderson and Fincher had their argument over how the film mocks cancer and cancer patients. Then it started to bother me.

    I’ve been meaning to see it again.

  • 4 Joe Valdez // Oct 1, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Rachel: I saw Fight Club four years out of college and remember not wanting to leave the theater when it was over. The Pixies song during the end credits was only part of the reason. I totally got it and continue to be amused by the people who now claim they loved this movie all along. The knee jerk reaction post-Columbine was anything but open minded, at least among critics. I’m really glad you liked it. I knew if I kept writing about movies, I’d find one we both loved. Thanks for commenting!

    Mrs. Thuro’s Mom: I agree that this movie sure is a “way homer,” meaning you really only get what it is “on the way home.” I don’t buy the notion that American audiences don’t want to think during a movie. The problem with Fight Club was the lack of support from Fox. This was a special movie that warranted an arthouse, word of mouth type release, giving critics time to digest the movie and help prepare audiences for what it really was. Along with Kill Bill this is also a litmus test among people I meet. Either you love it, or you hate it.

    Moviezzz: I recall that Anderson later apologized to Fincher. Whether the apology was for not understanding the movie, or just ripping it publicly instead of privately, I can’t say. I do not think it mocks terminal illness. It mocks a culture where the only place youth feel they’re being listened to is a support group for terminal illness. That’s a fine line perhaps but another reason to be thankful for DVD. I highly recommend watching this flick again.

  • 5 Piper // Oct 1, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Excellent piece Joe.

    No other movie has defined my generation like this film. I have embraced it in my writings, and yet I feel guilty for doing so. I guess because it’s so recent.

    I love the shout out from my hometown and my college UNL.

    I really thought it was interesting what Mechanic said about wanting Kael’s reaction. Normally it would be dismissed as an excuse, but I think there’s an interesting thought there. No one really ever reviewed it in the context of all films.

  • 6 Adam Ross // Oct 2, 2008 at 4:20 am

    Great review as always, Joe, I love reading the background information you put into these because 99% of the time it’s all new to me. I saw “Fight Club” in the theater and really enjoyed it, but have actually never watched it since. I think this is due to how amazing a theatrical experience it was — it’s just a movie that begs to be seen in the theater.

  • 7 Yojimbo // Oct 5, 2008 at 10:57 am

    My problem with the movie is that it’s a narrative cheat. Yeah, there’s an unreliable narrator. Yeah, there are fantasy elements mixed in, so you don’t need to “believe” what happens on screen–love your grab of the Tyler pointing to the cigarett burn, by the way (it’s my favorite screen cap I’ve seen in a few weeks–can I borrow it?), but….

    For the story to progress–and I walk carefully here to not spoil–the initiation of “Fight Club” depends on something that can’t happen–or draw a crowd, and so the cult of “Fight Club” is built on a false premise, and the rest of the movie collapses like a house of cards…or something else.

    Hmmm. Maybe none of it happens. Maybe it’s all simply a mind-struggle.

    Will have to ponder this…

  • 8 Joe Valdez // Oct 5, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Pat: I learned that there are young, hip people in Nebraska! No one ever told me. The pile-on against Fight Club happens every so often in the press – whether with Heaven’s Gate or Hostel 2 – where critics compete over who is more outraged by a movie. Even Roger Ebert is guilty of this. As with The Big Lebowski and many cult films, the critical evaluations ended up being held largely on college campuses in places like Lincoln with people who didn’t have press passes, but did have minds of their own. Thanks for commenting!

    Adam: Fight Club is a great film to revisit for a couple of reasons. The world has changed so much since you saw this in a theater. I think it’s become more like the world of the novel actually, and while that makes it scarier than most horror movies to an extent, the DVD is without question one of the best ever produced. Thanks for leaving a comment; I always enjoy hearing the man behind DVD Panache chime in.

    Jim: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I have a long list of movies I dislike because they feature events that “can’t happen.” Fight Club is obviously not one of them. As for borrowing screen captures from other sites, my policy is borrow away, as long as you credit the source with a link somewhere on your site.

  • 9 Croc // Jun 1, 2009 at 5:02 am

    Once again I have to admit this is one of the best if not the best film blog on the Internet.

  • 10 AR // Jun 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Love the quote by Fincher about film pertaining to his generation. I thought at the time that it really tapped into something I and my friends felt. I saw it after reading an amazing local reviewer and also one of my best friends at the time pushing me to see it. Have seen it numerous times since and it never gets old.

  • 11 Joe Valdez // Jun 1, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Don: Can you give me a job? If not, I still really appreciate the compliment.

    Amanda: I believe the erudite quote you enjoyed should be attributed to Yale grad Edward Norton, not David Fincher. Fincher’s alma mater was Aerosmith, who he directed music videos for. Thanks so much for commenting.

  • 12 AR // Jun 2, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Ahhhh…you’re right. I remembered reading the old version of this entry last year, so I didn’t skim through very carefully. Nevertheless, it was interesting!

  • 13 Matthew L. // Jun 5, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Despite the gimmicky nature of the film with college students and dumb kids who have no clue what the film’s real message is, I believe Fight Club, (along with Donnie Darko, Requiem For A Dream, and The Usual Suspects), will one day be appreciated as more than just a cult classic, but as a landmark film in style and commentary, possibly right up there with the likes of “A Clockwork Orange” and “Pulp Fiction.” If Pitt deserved an Oscar nomination for any role, it was this one. Perhaps it was just too hip and too big of a flop for Academy voters. Even for those who are annoyed by the film’s mixed messages and obnoxious attutude, you can’t deny the craftsmanship that went into making it. It’s a NEAR perfect film.

  • 14 The Filmist // Jun 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I can’t imagine Kael would be too fond of “Fight Club” – Andrew Sarris wasn’t, and those two were like peas in a pod.

    But, Sarris disliked the Coen’s “NCFOM,” as well as their more recent “Burn After Reading”. So, take from him what you will. I’ve never been too large a fan of him, myself. Or Kael.

  • 15 Rob // Jun 9, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Joseph,

    Great post, as usual. I thought I’d offer a couple of comments about Fight Club, the novel in relation to Fight Club, the film and the idea of adulthood in the flick.

    The story seems to work, at least to me, much better on the screen than on the page. A major caveat to this claim: I wasn’t able to get through the novel (which is saying something given my indiscriminate binge reading habits). From what I remember though, the entire novel is written in first-person narration and has a somewhat distanced feeling, as if the narrator is describing his experiences as he’s observing them or as if they’re happening to another person. Another way to say it: as if he’s watching a movie.

    I’ve heard people describe psychotic experiences in these terms and given the narrator’s schizoid psychosis, it might be fair to make the assumption that this narrative strategy reinforces novel’s thematics (something also found in the “I am Jack’s…” lines and its variations).

    But it’s damn boring! The narrator of the novel is simply a camera with commentary minus the visuals of a film. By contrast, consider Graham Greene’s novels or the more literary novels of Simenon. Greene was essentially a screenwriter in this sense as well, but there seems to be a deeper dimension of description and reflection that make his novels worth reading; Simenon’s style, even in translation, makes his novels more than simply films without the pictures (though not much more in some cases).

    But where Fight Club, the novel seems impoverished by its camera-like qualities, Fight Club, the film seems to improve upon the novel by adding cinematic touches the novel can’t pull off. I’m thinking of the furniture and labels that appear in “Jack’s” apartment giving it the appearance of a page from an IKEA catalog, the slow motion/windtunnel effects of the plane crash, the slow motion of the tooth going down the drain, the incongruity of the rubber gloves (and goggles?) in the Tyler/Marla sex scene, etc. Plus the film has the added bonus of dipping into the first-person whenever it wants.

    I guess it’s a difference between what you can imagine and what you can’t. You can imagine, as a reader, the “slide” scenes, but I don’t think you can imagine the cinematic effect of the IKEA catalog scene when reading about IKEA furniture in the novel. I’m currently reading R.L. Stevenson’s The Master of Ballantrae which is told through first person narration and can’t imagine a film doing it justice. But why read Fight Club?

    As an aside, I had the opposite experience the other day when I saw Up (in 3D no less…my girlfriend’s choice). I didn’t see anything in the film that I don’t think couldn’t have been done better by a good children’s book that left more to the imagination. Neither the animation, nor the the “third dimension” really added anything to the story. It wasn’t a bad flick; but it was strangely flat. It was preceded by a preview for Cloudy, With a Chance of Meatballs which looked even flatter.

    I guess I found Palahniuk’s writing to be kind of imagination killing in the same (but opposite)way a film that is better left as a children’s book can be imagination killing as well. It’s strange. I haven’t yet caught a case of the Benjamin Buttons, but I’d be curious to read the Fitzgerald story and compare it to the film in these terms.

    You also touched on the therapeutic aspects of the story which got me thinking. Rather than setting up an either/or between the disease support group therapeutic model and the Fight Club therapeutic model, it seems to be both advocating for and criticizing both.

    Maybe we can think of the story as positing two poles that we all (especially those of us of the characters’ generation) seem to live between: complete, childish conformity to or complete, childish anarchy outside of social norms; childish, mollycoddled acceptance or childish, violent rejection of social norms; the total loss of self (childish submission to authority) or the total assertion of self (childish me-ism, the Nietzschean fallacy).

    Perhaps the trick for us is to live within the tension of these extremes without falling into the kind of (again, childish) complacency that the totality of one or the other leads to.

    The funny lines about Tyler’s father “setting up franchises” and being a “generation raised by women” distracts us, perhaps, from the issue the scene (and film) really deals with: What does it mean to be an adult (not simply a man) in the world (and responsible for and to the world) we find ourselves born into? I think the commentary between Fincher, Norton, and Pitt might address this someplace, but I can’t quite remember where or how.

    Those who don’t get the movie, or who criticize it (or celebrate it) for its violence possibly don’t see the essential tension between the two poles the film sets up.

    Just some idle speculation. Thanks for the thought-provoking opportunity to hallucinate a little!

  • 16 Daniel // Jun 10, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Nice to be in welcoming company about this brilliant film. And what an excellent review, Joe – thanks for all of that background information. I guess I never even realized the movie didn’t do well either critically or commercially upon its release, even though I saw it on opening day. (And talk about a trip, the theater projectionist accidentally replayed a reel twice – the audience didn’t know any better, we were just expecting some weird deja vu twists. Well they didn’t come in that reel, but they did come during the movie. Needless to say it was a bit disorienting, and I think I stayed for as second showing.)

    I’ve always considered Fight Club nothing less than revolutionary. So impressed am I to this day, both from repeated viewings and generational experience, that I find myself literally unable to understand any criticism of it.

  • 17 Eric // Jun 10, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for film critics to fail to see true meaning in the films they watch. Ebert, for example, dislikes the film because he dislikes Tyler, and decries the violence. What Ebert doesn’t understand is that THAT’S THE POINT! Tyler isn’t supposed to be your likable buddy, he represents the horrifying volatility that lives within all of us but we suppress. Films like this turn out to be more of a commentary on those who do not understand it rather than the themes presented in the film itself.

  • 18 Christian // Jun 13, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I guess I’ll be lone wolf out. Although I liked the novel and script (and interviewed Jim Uhls for Creative Screenwriting) there’s something smug and glib about the film, exactly the thing Norton claims the Gen-X films did. I think the film’s premise is skewed to the degree that people want to blame some kind of “effeminitization” on our poor male psyches. I’ve heard major fans of the film claim it’s about men needing to regain their masculinity. I hope not.

    And Fincher always bothers me. How does a guy who makes advertising for the biggest corporations on Earth get to dictate society’s materialist woes? Fincher revealed himself when the talk of a FIGHT CLUB musical came up and he said he thought it hilarious that people would pay 100 bucks for a FIGHT CLUB musical as if they didn’t get the point of the film. Hilarious. Fincher later amended the remarks when he realized it made him look the hypocrite.

    And Anderson was dead on about FIGHT CLUB. The film glorifies the brutality — hence the real-life FC’s that have sprung up across America. No irony at all!

  • 19 Joe Valdez // Jun 13, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Henry: I miss Pauline Kael. The concept of writing critically about movies several weeks, even months, after they’ve been in theaters seems to have died with her. I do recall that Andrew Sarris hated Brian DePalma, and Kael was a major cheerleader for a lot of his films. Thanks for commenting.

    Rob: The only Chuck Palahniuk book I’ve tried to read was Lullaby, which seemed to have little graphic violence, but made me nauseous nonetheless. I think a lot of people had the same reaction to Fight Club. There have been far more violent movies that were blockbusters, but none that assaulted the values we take for granted. I’m glad you got so much out of a mere movie.

    Daniel: Thanks so much for that compliment and for chiming in. Fight Club was released in the wake of Columbine, when there was concern that violent movies, music or video games were responsible for kids in the suburbs going crazy and killing each other. As a result, I think a lot of adults went into competition over who could go to the media and be more outraged by pop culture with violent, renegade content. I’m glad plenty of people have since been able to discover how great Fight Club is on their own without the politics of the day getting in the way.

    Eric: “Films like this turn out to be more of a commentary on those who do not understand it rather than the themes presented in the film itself.” Terrific observation. Fight Club — like Kill Bill — is a taste test movie for me. I respect peoples right to their own opinion, but if you dislike those movies, bye-bye. Thanks for commenting!

    Christian: I’m the flip side of the coin on most of the stuff you mentioned. Personally, I don’t see Fight Club as commenting on immasculinity or violence. The bare knuckled boxing is not anything I can relate to at all. What I see the story doing so supremely well is examining the effect a culture has on one man’s complete emotional and mental unraveling. And I haven’t read into any comments David Fincher has made, but can’t say he’s irked me at all, as Paul Thomas Anderson does virtually every time he opens his mouth. Terrific comments by you. Thanks for chiming in!

  • 20 Chuck // Jun 17, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I’ll back Christian. A truly daring film would do more than celebrate the dissassociative carnage (Shotgun Stories is an example), and do more than play to frustrated people’s most frustrated fantasies. These films are rigged to goad people into going along with them, because people who don’t like them can be accused of “not getting it”, it’s art as hipster hazing.

    Christian has already gotten most of why I didn’t like this movie, but let’s also point out that Fincher, the genius, just made a bit of Oscar-courting pap that could easily fit in among Fight Club’s targets. This stuff is rich people humoring themselves. Fincher has considerable formal gifts, but, like many of his generation, he hasn’t put them to much use.

  • 21 Jeremy Cabral // May 24, 2011 at 12:30 am

    I’ll back you up on that last line. Anyone who doesn’t rate this flick a 9 is the guy in the GUCCI pic on the bus.

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