#62 Fight Club
(1999, David Fincher)
“I felt like destroying something beautiful”
Now, I’ve got a bit of a dilemma here. I’m apparently not allowed to talk about Fight Club. And yet I have to review it since I watched it. What do I do?
I mean, I certainly can’t describe how this features Edward Norton as an unnamed narrator with severe insomnia who finds minor relief by attending support groups for diseases he doesn’t have. When this fails due to the presence of a mysterious woman named Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), he ends up meeting a man named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) before his apartment burns down. I could say more, but let’s just say it involves the narrator and Durden setting up a new form of therapy for men, but I really can’t talk about it.
Now, I probably shouldn’t say this, but Fight Club was poorly marketed when it was released. It was made out to be a movie about men punching each other when in actual fact it’s a movie about anti-consumerism. It’s about the loss of identity through corporate sponsorship and how chasing money is making people profoundly unhappy. Which is probably why the big corporate studios failed to find a way to market it properly.
I didn’t tell you this, so keep this quiet, but Fight Club is a pretty decent movie. It has a lot to say about modern society, even now, ten years on. But sometimes it feels as if it’s over the top in its message. It feels like it’s constantly cramming the idea that earning money and buying anything at all is a horrible idea and anyone who does it is a horrible person. It seems to claim that in order for us to be truly happy, we need to beat each other to a pulp and live in a world without law.
But maybe this is the point. While sometimes this message is uncomfortable, there is a subtext that the man spouting off this “wisdom”, Tyler Durden, is an unhinged maniac. Brad Pitt’s performance of him is fantastic, a drastic improvement over his previous work with David Fincher. He carries a certain kind of smugness around with him, designed to make him look cool and charming, but underneath it, Pitt plays it with subtle hints that if you dare say the wrong thing to him, he’ll stab you in the face.
It’s just a shame that this side of the message – that an extremist opposition to consumerism is just as destructive and harmful as what it’s opposing – can be easily lost in the slightly glorified violent fight scenes and the fact that Durden seems like such a cool guy. This, again, may be the point, but the fact that the seemingly brainwashed members of Durden’s “Project Mayhem” later in the movie seem to resemble the groomed members of certain real life terrorist cells, it shows that the subtleties could easily be lost on the very kinds of people likely to fall into Project Mayhem. It’s slightly terrifying.
Fight Club is weird though. It walks the line between being genuinely clever and merely being pretentious. Occasionally it’s hard to tell exactly which side of the line it’s on. Some of the editing techniques are clever, but others, while impressive, just make you feel like Fincher would just leave it be. There’s also instances of slightly dodgy-looking CGI effects, such as a shot where the camera pans out of a rubbish bin. I also still have no idea what the relevance of the penguin “spirit animal” seen early on in the film is. The twist at the end, however, is a very good one, not that I’m going to go into it too much here. Like I said at the start, I can’t really talk about Fight Club.
However, what I can say is that it’s a very well-made movie that is worth a watch, although at times it can be a little difficult. But persevere and you’ll find something that is certainly one of the cleverest movies of the late 90s.
But I never said any of that, OK?
Starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf & Jared Leto
Written by Chuck Palahniuk (novel) & Jim Uhls
Produced by Art Linson, Cean Chaffin & Ross Grayson Bell
Music score by The Dust Brothers
Cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth
Edited by James Haygood
Favourite Scene: The reveal of the twist. Particularly in the flashbacks it generates and how it completely reshapes those scenes.
Scene That Bugged Me: The CGI panning shot out of the bin. Apparently it was included in the edit at the 11th hour literally as it had finished processing. It shows.
Watch it if: You realise the satire behind what’s going on
Avoid it if: You plan on talking about Fight Club. DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB! GOD!
Originally posted on Blogspot Monday 20 February 2012