Lather Up

Dorm rooms were forever changed in 1999. Another option was added to the poster selections. Joining Travis Bickle's Mohawk and blood spatters, the menacing line of Mr. Pink/White/Blonde, etc. and Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield's brandished pistols was Brad Pitt's fashionable Tyler Durden with a fistful of rendered human fat and lye. The tagline read: "Mischief. Mayhem. Soap." Based on the I-can't-believe-that-was-his-first-novel by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club is a valiant effort to animate the book--one that established Palahniuk as a writer unafraid to cross the line of social acceptance, make readers love an abhorrent character and then stick a gun in their mouths, safety off. It was a tall order.

For fans of the book, or Palahniuk's work in general, David Fincher's Fight Club can be a bit of a 50/50 on the enjoyment rating. The casting was great (Meat Loaf and Jared Leto are perfect); the setting's appropriately dank and dreary. The single servings and "tiny life" remain intact, thankfully. And, of course, Fincher left in exceptionally important info about what waiters do to certain foods, and we govern our orders to this day based on seeing Pitt piss in a soup tureen and a waiter suggesting, "May I advise against the lady eating clam chowder?" when Edward Norton requests "Clean food, please." But something's off. It's too MTV, too clean despite the gritty plot. The "I am Jack's..." lines are almost hokey in their vocalization, and being that they are a major motif, that's unfortunate. We also wanted more of Palahniuk in our Durden, less of Pitt's stock zany character.

It makes us wonder: If we'd never read the book, would we like the movie more? Because it's not that we don't like it; we just suffer from the conflict between what developed on our mind's movie screen and that of the cineplex. We're guessing the dorm boys of 1999-2000's freshman class didn't, for the most part, read the book before seeing the flick. If they had, we doubt that there would be the worship of the soap-making anarchist. Sure, anarchy is popular at that age, but without Pitt's personification, there'd be no pretty bad boy to style one's dress and hair after, no poster child for violent stress release, no "underground" and edgy role model for their fantasies.

So we're torn. As Midnights at the Inwood features Fight Club this weekend, we realize at once that the film is an entertaining if not perfect embodiment of our beloved Palahniuk's brainchild. So go see it and take it in, but do yourself a favor and read the book. Not immediately, of course, as it would be impossible to catch all the written innuendos with visuals still so fresh. Wait a bit, forget a little, then dive in. Or, better yet, read it before midnight on Friday. Then you can tell us we're right. We are Jack's smirking satisfaction.

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin

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