I am Jack's unbridled enthusiasm. And to think I wasn't expecting to like this film!
What little I had gleaned had led me to expect some boneheaded macho-man fest a la Road House, something which tries to be serious and ends up simply puerile. I had no clue just how goddamned funny it was. I am continually amazed at how frequently I find this film shelved in the "drama" sections of video stores. It seemed nobody was really sure what to make of this movie, probably the most flat-out punk flick since Repo Man. And if you haven't seen Repo Man, get thee hence and view it posthaste.
One has only to read any mainstream film critic's review of Fight Club to see that the film's message made them decidedly uncomfortable. Most older people don't want to hear "the world our parents left us is a soulless piece of crap," particularly when the "us" of the phrase means full-grown adults, not the perpetually angst-ridden teen population. The real beauty of the film, however, is that it outlines its forever-unnamed protagonist's disaffection with his pulse-stoppingly dull life, and then gleefully sends him chasing off after precisely the wrong solutions, until by story's end he's confronted by all he's done and is forced to take a few steps back and say "whoa, whoa; let's maybe reassess this a bit." It's quite clear that much of the reactionary condemnation came from those who were incapable of seeing the joke, the frankly rather self-evident fact that the film supports only its grievances, not its proffered solutions, an admittedly unusual dichotomy that's rare in storytelling, to say the least.
Director David Fincher's vision is endlessly imaginative, with more and more details waiting to be unearthed in repeated viewings. While this film is definitely a product of very modern directorial techniques, Fincher knows how to pace a scene, how and when to use special effects, and how to compose his images and sounds within a shot for maximum effect, unlike second-rung imitators like "McG," who needs to get a real name and fire his image consultant, and who seems to think that constantly changing the frame rate back and forth at seemingly random points constitutes a style. It's also a film that isn't spoiled once you know how it ends; if anything, it's even funnier the second time through.
Helpful hint: do not watch this movie with your parents. You will squirm.
Given my own personal history-which I'm not divulging; lord knows who might be reading this...the cops, the feds, my mom-I can't help but find the antics of Project Mayhem terribly amusing and enviable, a feeling no doubt shared by many others, which is probably part of the reason for the labeling of this film as subversive, fascist, and "an inadmissible assault on personal decency" by the mainstream press. Nevertheless, it doesn't take a genius, just someone smarter than Kenneth Turan, to see that the message here is "think for yourself." If you think that a bunch of space monkeys reciting a dead man's name mantra-style sounds like something you'd really want to be signed up for, then perhaps it's you, not your environment, that has some serious issues.
History may or may not vindicate this film with the public at large, but it's almost certainly destined to become a cult classic. It's nearly impossible for a film this quotable to avoid it. Were there any justice in this world, this would've been the film of its year, the way Pulp Fiction became the cultural phenomenon of 1994. I am Jack's sterling recommendation.
-review by Matt Murray