In a time when so few motion pictures leave an impact, Fight Clubrefuses to be ignored or dismissed. The experience lingers, demanding to bepondered and considered, and, unlike most of the modern-day thrillers,there is a great deal here to think about and argue over. Fight Clubpresents an overload of thought-provoking material that works on so manylevels as to offer grist for the mills of thousands of reviews, featurearticles, and post-screening conversations.
Pre-release interest in Fight Club was understandably high, primarilybecause of those involved with the project. Jim Uhls’ script is based on aninfluential novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The lead actor is the ever-popular Brad Pitt, who makes his strongestbid to date to shed his pretty boy image and don the mantle of a seriousthespian. Those dubious about Pitt’s ability to pull this off in the wakeof his attempts in movies such as Seven Years In Tibet and Meet Joe Blackwill suffer a change of heart after seeing this film. Pitt’s male co-starand the protagonist, Ed Norton, is widely recognized as one of the mostintelligent and versatile performers of his generation. Furthermore, FightClub’s director, David Fincher, has already made a huge impression on movie-goers with only three movies to his credit: Alien 3, Seven (starring Pitt),and The Game.
The film begins by introducing us to our narrator and the protagonist,Jack, who is brilliantly portrayed by Norton. In Fight Club, the actor fitsperfectly into the part of a cynical but mild-mannered employee of a majorautomobile manufacturer who is suffering from a bout of insomnia. When hevisits his doctor for a remedy, the disinterested physician tells him tostop whining and visit a support group for testicular cancer survivors ifhe wants to meet people who really have problems. So Jack does exactly that- and discovers that interacting with these victims gives him an emotionalrelease that allows him to sleep. Soon, he is addicted to attending supportgroup meetings, and has one lined up for each night of the week.
That’swhere he meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), another “faker. ” UnlikeJack, however, she attends purely for the voyeuristic entertainment value. On what can be described as the worst day of his life (an airlineloses his luggage and his apartment unit explodes, destroying all of hispossessions), Jack meets the flamboyant Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soapsalesman with an unconventional view of life. Since Jack is in need of aplace to live, Tyler invites him to move in, and the two share a”dilapidated house in a toxic waste part of town. ” Tyler teaches Jacklessons about freedom and empowerment, and the two begin to physicallyfight each other as a means of release and rebirth.
Soon, others find outabout this unique form of therapy, and Fight Club is born – an undergroundorganization (whose first and second rules are: “You do not talk aboutFight Club”) that encourages men to beat up each other. But this is onlythe first step in Tyler’s complex master plan. In addition to lead actors Pitt, Norton, and Bonham Carter, all ofwhom do impeccable work, there is a pair of notable supporting characters. The first is Meat Loaf (Meat Loaf the singer), who portrays the ineffectualBob. It’s a surprisingly strong performance, with the singer-turned-actorcapturing the nuances of a complex character.
Jared Leto, (The Thin RedLine), is the blond Angel Face. Told in a conventional fashion, Fight Club would have been engaging. However, Fincher’s gritty, restless style turns itintoavisualmasterpiece. The overall experience is every bit as surreal as watchingKubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. This is a tale that unfolds in an eeriealternate universe where the melodies of life have the same rhythm as inours but are in a different key.
Fincher also shows just enough restraintthat his flourishes seem like important parts of the storytelling methodinstead of gimmicks. And there are a lot of them. In one scene, acharacter’s apartment is laid out like a page in a furniture catalog,complete with text blurbs superimposed on the screen describing the variouspieces. There are occasional single frame interruptions that flash by soquickly that they may pass unnoticed.
The film opens with a truly inventiveclose-up – one that literally gets under the skin. Also in play: a non-linear chronology, a voiceover by a narrator who might not be entirelyreliable, frequent breaking of the fourth wall, and an occasional freeze-frame. As was true of Fincher’s other three films, Fight Club is dark andfast-paced. There’s not a lot of time for introspection. One could callthis MTV style, but, unlike many equally frantic movies, there’s a reasonfor each quick cut beyond preventing viewers from becoming bored.
There’s no denying that Fight Club is a violent movie. Some sequencesare so brutal that a portion of the viewing audience will turn away. Butthe purpose of showing a blood bath is to make a telling point about thebestial nature of man and what can happen when the numbing effects of day-to-day drudgery cause people to go a little crazy. The men who becomemembers of Fight Club are victims of the dehumanizing and desensitizingpower of modern-day society. They have become cogs in a wheel. The only waythey can regain a sense of individuality is by getting in touch with theprimal, barbaric instincts of pain and violence.
As the film progresses,Fincher systematically reveals each new turn in an ever-deepening spiralthat descends into darkness and madness. There’s also a heavy element ofsatire and black comedy. Macabre humor can be found everywhere, from thepithy quips traded by Jack and Tyler to the way Jack interacts with hisboss. When combined together, the satire, violence, and unpredictablenarrative make a lasting and forceful statement about modern-day society.
Works Cited/Bibliography . Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Perf.
Brad Pitt, Edward Norton,Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf and Jared Leto. 20th CenturyFox, 1999 . Ebert, Roger. “Fight Club.
” Chicago Sun-Times. 10th Oct. 1999http://www. suntimes.
com/ebert/ebert_reviews/1999/10/101502. html . Granger, Susan. “All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review: Fight Club”Onlineposting.2000.All-Reviews.Com11thNov.2003http://www.all-reviews.com/videos/fight-club.htm