Worth A Look: 15.13%
Just Average: 4.87%
Pretty Crappy: 3.16%
26 reviews, 604 user ratings
|Fight Club (1999)
Fight Club has fallen into the category of cult film within weeks of its release-- a category usually reserved for things like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. As with all cult films, roughly half of the people who've seen it hate it with a passion, and the other half think that the film could change their life. Ignoring both of those, this is, in fact, just a movie, albeit one that raises some interesting points.It's probably safe to assume at this point that most film fans are familiar with the plot of this movie, so the explanation thereof will be kept short. The bullet points--
"A decent film that has been both over-praised and over-bashed."
* The Narrator (Ed Norton) is on the roof of one of the tallest buildings in the country with a gun in his mouth. Enter flashback.
* He has insomnia.
* He cures the insomnia by going to support group meetings.
* He has an insomnia relapse because of a woman named Marla (Helena * Bonham Carter) who also attends the meetings.
* He meets a charismatic guy named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), whom he moves in with.
* Tyler and the Narrator start a group called Fight Club, where men beat each other up, and, more importantly, get beat up to get in touch with themselves.
* Fight Club turns into a group called Project Mayhem.
* Major plot twist.
* The Narrator realizes he's not as down with Project Mayhem as he thought he was.
* End flashback. The Narrator and Tyler are on the roof of the building.
There are several outstanding things about this movie. It's very subversive, which appeals to a large deal of malcontents out there. It's rare to see a movie this subversive come out of a major Hollywood studio, with hot young actors in the lead roles. And those hot young actors do an excellent job, too. Norton, who has yet to turn out a bad performance, does another superb job as the Narrator. Contradictory as it may seem, he plays the role of the boring every-man with a great amount of charisma. Pitt gives what may be a career-best performance as Tyler Durden. While cynics are probably snickering that this is true only because he's never been particularly good in the past, it doesn't detract from the fact that he's great in this role. The direction, too, is stellar, with director David Fincher (Alien 3, Seven, The Game) turning even the most potentially boring scenes visually exciting.
However, the film isn't without its faults, either. While it's nice to see such a subversive film come out of Hollywood, it would be even more appreciated if the level of subversion ever really rose above the type of manifestos commonly scrawled on poorly designed websites and bathroom stalls in college dormitories. Also, it makes the assumption that everyone in the audience is as discontent with society as the Narrator and Durden. Essentially, it refuses to acknowledge any opposing viewpoints. When Project Mayhem starts hatching some of its more elaborate plots, it's hard not to wonder, "Christ, doesn't -anybody- out there like their job?". There are a few ways to look at the viewpoints expressed here.
A) The average disempowered American male is surprisingly cool with the idea that he's disempowered. He actually -likes- IKEA and sitcoms, and has no real desire to blow up his office. If one were to ask a forty year old man if he would be happier wearing a loincloth and chucking spears at deer in the forest to bring back to the tribe for dinner, or driving to the store to pick up nachos before plunking down in his chair to watch the wrestling match, the answer might be a bit of a surprise to someone who truly believes all of the rather immature ideals that Tyler spouts throughout the movie.
B) The average disempowered American male doesn't really care if he's disempowered, but will take any excuse to beat people up and cause explosions. Essentially, doing the right things (according to Tyler) for the wrong reasons.
C) The average disempowered American male is really as miserable with the world and society that has been constructed as Tyler would lead the audience to believe, and Project Mayhem really -is- the only way to solve it.
D) The average disempowered American male is unhappy with the world and society, but doesn't feel the need to blow things up to prove it.
And the list could go on. Unfortunately, Fight Club only exposes the audience to the one belief, and the strength of any argument it tries to make suffers because of it.
The transition from Fight Club into Project Mayhem is also quite muddied. Fight Club was intended, according to Durden, as a way for men to get in touch with themselves ("How much can you really know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?" he asks the Narrator in one scene) and establish their individuality. Once it turns into Project Mayhem, however, that's completely lost. Practically overnight, all the members of Fight Club sacrifice their newfound individuality to become bald-headed, nameless members of Project Mayhem. If the prior themes had resembled anything close to "people at their core just want a leader to follow", this would make a good deal of sense. Since the theme is nearly the polar opposite of that for the majority of the film (the early theme being "people at their core hate everything and want to beat things up to prove how they're different from the things they hate"), it just comes across as though the screenwriters weren't entirely aware of how to make the jump to Project Mayhem, and so they did a somewhat poor job of it.
Finally, while it's dangerous to write about the end of a film that all of the readers haven't seen, the ending is extremely weak. The points that the film had tried to make are all but lost in the flash of an ending designed primarily to shock. While comparisons to the novel are both irrelevant and a bit unfair, it's at least worth pointing out that there could have been other ways to end the film that at least made a statement, as Palahniuk did in his book. Truly, it appears that the film ended as it did because Fincher had an neat final few frames in mind and was willing to sacrifice most of what the film stood for in order to achieve that vision.However, all that being said, this isn't a bad film by any means. It's outstandingly directed and performed, with quite a few excellent scenes. Much of the dialogue is very funny, and it -is- nice to see a film this subversive achieve popular acceptance. But a few glaring flaws keep it from being much more than a pretty good flick.
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originally posted: 10/26/99 16:10:59