Fight Club ★★★½

Filled to the tee with what seems a rapid succession of what seems foibles followed by virtues, before in its last half hour (also, this is overlong) lapsing into maybe one of the most completely irresponsible movies ever. But it's far from unengaging, not least to say uninteresting. Flawed as it may be, Fight Club may very well be the strongest of the pre-Benjamin Button Fincher works, and of the early works points most directly to the strengths of Social Network and Gone Girl in its concern with a generation whose value system was largely dictated by neoliberalism and advertising culture. But, for better or for worse, also shares with the former the quiet siding with the protagonist's jaundiced perspective.

Yet for the most part, Fight Club can be genuinely insightful - reaction against a simulated and fraudulent idea of consumer-ready happiness, reaction against a sort-of "given" life of spectatorship, reaction against external signifiers of happiness, reaction against traditional concerns of failure and success as the meaning of ones life. What is consistently interesting about Fight Club is that Fincher's identification of social planks are most often correct, and it moves in a most fascinating direction where in order for these characters desire to "feel" reality, they resort to violence - first towards each other as sport, before directing it externally. In this state of "reaction" only, rather than active improvement of conditions, this desire to "feel" everything turns these men into little more than Neanderthals testing each other to see whom is the strongest, while this emphasis on reaction over action shields themselves from the fact that they have no direction. They become little more than a group of anarcho-fascists, where even though the conditions they are reacting against are completely justified, their own reaction is jaundiced and deluded, ironically only worsening things for themselves. While I'm no Zodiac-hater (I think it's just a little boring) Fight Club does seem to stand at a crossroads between the thoughtful David Fincher of a mere nine years later and David Fincher, the Gen-X 90s edgelord.

The films critiques are spot on but its solutions are not, yet those mistaken solutions are in and of itself surprisingly perceptive in the long term. When this really becomes a real problem, however, is in the films final thirty minutes, because the films reveal of the split personality motif (already somewhat disrespectful) actually undercuts the actual critiques the film has made and the planks which Fincher has identified, which for the most part, are actually correct. By now revealing that Norton is detached from reality, it reinstates the "normal" as truth, when the film has spent the last near two hours showing us that this is not the case. It's a fatal misstep and one that limits ones own goodwill towards the film from beforehand, because it reveals that Fincher is not as critical towards the Narrator/Durden's character and their cronies as one might have assumed previously. As such, it's a tremendous shame because the films own missteps ironically mirror those of the characters...yet it's almost there. It's still nevertheless a worthwhile viewing and in a way stands as a testament to how much Fincher has genuinely matured over the years, especially given that he would revisit and rework similar subject matter again and again, particularly in his study and understanding of how images as a consumer product can so easily manipulate and influence masses of people.

Random note: As an aside, I've always found myself preferring Fincher on a screen rather than a theatre (TSW, Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl only clicked with me upon their respective Blu-ray releases) and there is something unusually fascinating between this and Panic Room - this one a near bomb on release and both released to mixed reception. Yet Fight Club would become a hit on its now legendary Fox 2000 DVD release, while Panic Room would become a classic staple of cable television. Who knows. Maybe Fincher's precision actually becomes heightened and more engaging at home, keeping the mind occupied in our rapid information era, while in the theatre, there's more room to dream.

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