feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
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The Unexplored Shadows Of Our Realities: Ranking David Fincher
Review In A Nutshell:
At the time of Fight Club's release, the feelings towards the film was mixed and its exposure to the general audience was far from abundant; then the influence of home media and word of mouth begin to lift the film off its feet; giving the film the attention and praise it has deserved, so far that it even made it to the most essential films to see of all time. If you asked me in my previous viewing how I felt about the film; I would have given you some positive words that would match the commending opinion of others. If you asked me before that, my answer would probably be sour; my feelings for this film swings back and forth, gaining a more pleasurable experience when seen with other people. Viewing this film alone tends to make it easier for me to find the film's flaws, which the film contains, quite a few. This isn't to say that this film does not deserve any credit, because it certainly does, just not to the level that everyone seems to give it.
Fight Club's plot begins small, following a lonely insomniac (in this case let's just call him Jack), who finds solace in support groups for illnesses. He attends these services because it is an opportunity for him to purge himself from the angst that builds within him; allowing him to express himself through tears and hugs. Fincher attempts to identify with the audience by having us relate to Jack's internal issues and showing us that he is cleaning himself through constructive and peaceful methods. Jack's clear mind has finally allowed him to sleep like a log; but the attendance of a woman named Marla Singer in his testicular cancer seminar, who seems to have the same intentions as Jack, has brought back feelings of anxiety and anger, keeping him from having that peace of mind, ergo shifting back to his insomniac condition. He confronts her about it, but it backfired on him, and eventually it leads to a conversation that lays down the foundation of their odd friendship; they compromise with one another on which seminars they would attend, creating a sense of isolation in order to reduce the risk of exposure and gaining back the effect of relaxation.
In one of Jack's business trips, in a plane, he meets Tyler Durden; a businessman who specialises on soap; a conversation with one another has established a friendly relationship, creating a sense of intrigue in Jack. After the flight, Jack comes home and finds his apartment on fire from an explosion; he decides to call Tyler for a drink and a request to stay at his home. At the end of the night, Tyler and Jack get into a friendly brawl which eventually later on, would build into something bigger; a club for men to meet and conduct one on one violent confrontations as a way of release. Fincher creates this parallel effect of the cancer groups and the fight club, as a way for men in society (specifically the working class) to release their frustrations through the act of inflicting and receiving pain. It acts as a reminder of their existence, a sense of feeling that has been lost in their everyday realities.
Tyler Durden's true purpose is to shake humanity away from their social and existential vices, bringing them back to a position of equality and fundamentals. This is where the film begins to become more than what it actually is; and it doesn't try to keep itself subtle either. Fincher and his screenwriter Jim Uhls, lets these ideas hit us hard on our faces; like Se7en, it acts as a reflection of our own impurity, and I certainly appreciate the filmmakers for shining a light on a significant issue. The film's ideas start to become larger as the film progresses, taking over the actual plot of the film; characters are thrusted into situations that feel way too colossal for its own good. That human dramatic element that anchored the film's first hour begins to disappear, which also left me more and more distant towards the characters and their goals. The film also begins to contradict its own message, with Tyler creating an army that expands in franchises, and its followers becoming less and less individualised; I thought the point was for these men to express a sense of individuality, a quality that was oppressed by their daily social pressures? It seems to just piss on it at the end for the plot's sake.
Fincher's direction features social satire that is wrapped in a layer of darkness that pushes it slightly beyond being a black comedy. This approach, I felt, was effective during the film's first hour; it was much more subtle then and does not interfere with the chemistry and construction of its leading characters. In the second half, it becomes too intrusive, pushing the film's self-awareness to an almost extreme state. Fincher's previous three films featured a third act that built on suspense; keeping me heavily engaged for the lives of its characters; by this point in Fight Club, I found myself barely caring on how it all ended, especially since all of its secrets have been revealed to me in previous viewings. I did however enjoy the conversation that Jack and Marla has at the end of the film.
Similar to Fincher's previous films; Fight Club features a visual look that is dark and heavy, lifted only by the comedic undertones of its direction and dialogue. Jeff Cronenweth is an amazing cinematographer; he gives films a sense of flavour that provides a rich texture on the image's surface. It is clear that Cronenweth's intentions on Fight Club were to establish the film's mood rather than to evoke a sense of depth. Granted that this was Cronenweth's debut on a major feature film, and it is clear the he is still attempting to find his personal and collaborative groove; his work becomes more impressive in the latter stages of his career, where he would get nominated for his work. He and Fincher should always work together, Cronenweth provides that sense of darkness that Fincher is attracted to, but ensuring a personal sense of style is retained.
Fight Club features a strong cast in their most memorable roles. Fincher achieves a sense of contrast between the two leads, with one coming off as submissive and low-key, while the other possess a more erratic and sarcastic quality. The actors were great in slipping into these roles, carrying the scenes with their exaggerated personalities and boiling chemistry. Since my first viewing of the film, I have seen the two actors in more films, and I can now safely say that both have been in roles that are far more complex and brought performances to those roles that ensured a sense of justice. Norton was brilliant in American History X, a role that could easily changes one's perspective of the actor, while Pitt works effectively in either roles; a sense of subtlety found more in films like A River Runs Through It and The Tree of Life. Helena Bonham Carter as the female lead was also great, but this role is far from her most memorable; with excessive performances to be found in other points of the actress' career; though it was nice to see her play a role that is more down to earth, beaten only by the performances she brings to her Merchant-Ivory films.
Fight Club did not strike me as strongly as it does for others, but it reaches out far enough to its audiences for it to be a memorable unique experience.