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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



The Mystery Man over at Mystery Man on Film has put forth that we should write about our favorite screenplays. I'm down. Here's a little ditty we call Fight Club, hum along if you know it. If you don't, keep moving. I'm assuming familiarity with the subject matter.

Fight Club is not about fighting. Well, okay. It is. What it's not about is punching. Or kicking.

There's something truth through violence and fucked-up issues of identity that appeal to me. It also spoke to a period of time that, were it not for international terrorism and its ensuing wars, might still be going on...and getting worse. Middle children of history and all that.

One of the first things that hits you in the screenplay is the voice over. There's a lot of it. And it's been my view that VO is really easy to fuck up. You have to walk the line between show/don't tell. It's got to compete with the visuals while imparting something worth hearing. Palahniuk made this easy for screenwriter Jim Uhls by having such a uniquely defined voice that you could easily just sit and listen to Jack (and the screenplay does call him Jack) drone on about different varieties of store-bought pudding (because at some point, there's going to be some mention of which brand best absorbs ground up overdoses of painkillers). This is clear from the first page.
With a gun barrel between your
teeth, you only speak in vowels.
Voice, to me, is what really separates a so-so movie from something really special. Usually it comes though as a result of the whole shebang (to use a technical term), but Fight Club is a first-person story, and then later it becomes a first-person story (heh) so it's really driven in. A lot of this comes from the novel, and as an adaptation goes, this one is top notch.

Another notable thing about this screenplay is that it should not be read. Don't do it, unless you're just really into it. The script is fairly spartan, which I like. It is truly a blueprint. It knows that it is not art in and of itself. It is a step in the process.

Uhls does not go out of his way to try to evoke a mood or anything. This was a production where all involved knew the source material very well, so there was no selling it in the script. Also, it's a film that makes full use of the motion picture medium and as such lots of things lose their coolness when you're just reading about it. The single frame stuff just completely loses its effect when you're reading about it for four seconds instead of seeing it for a half-second (not actually a single frame, but...).

That said, here it is if you want to read it.

©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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