Generation-Xers often feel alienated in our society. Performance and consumerism are supposed to motivate us, but what kind of value system is that? “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working at jobs we hate so we can afford shit we don’t need.” TV makes us believe that money and beauty and big cars will make us happy. Our generation, born and raised through the 70s and 80s, hasn’t been given any religious, social or moral model. We are too young to have been in a great war, there was no major economical crisis. “Our Great War’s a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.” It used to be that men were providers for their families, and hopefully entities prompt to do the right thing. And now the only thing that matters in America is how much money you can make, and how close you can get to a movie star lifestyle. Urgh.
Reality check: TV’s wrong. There’s very little chance any of us will end up a millionaire, a movie god or a rock star. You’re just gonna strive and do shit you have nothing but contempt for and just get some lousy, unfulfilling existence. Sure, you might be able to kinda convince yourself it’s all good, you got the car and the lawn you mown on Sundays, and you look oh-so-cool in your khakis, just like those dancing kids in the ads, right? But deep down inside, we know there’s gotta be something better to live for. “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.”
“Fight Club” is an absolutely amazing movie, as subversive as it gets. It’s a wonder it ever got made, especially by a major studio. This masterpiece is a picture that screams for people to wake up and revolt against the absurdity of modern life. Of course it’s gathering controversy. It’s anti-capitalism, borderline nihilistic and downright anarchist, for sure. Some might even say that it’s anti-God, and not quite without evidence. But ain’t that what movies are about? Art is supposed to make you think, to push you to react. It shouldn’t leave you indifferent. These days everyone blames movies for violence in our society. Don’t stop selling guns to kids (that’s big money), but turn every movie into Disney sap to shut people up for a while. Maybe they’ll keep ignoring that Nike is exploiting kids to pay Michael Jordan, that automobile moguls will recall cars only if it’ll cost less than settling malfunction cases out of court, that you gotta kill half-extinct species of whales to make classy perfume… If we stop making movies with violence just in case some moron might screw up (which he would probably have done anyway), cinema will become a travesty of reality, and we’ll be deprived of many potential masterpieces. If violence had never been in movies, there would have been no “A Clockwork Orange” or “Taxi Driver”; we’re talking about some of the greatest movies ever made!
“Fight Club” revolves around an unnamed Narrator, a disillusioned office worker who’s so fed up with his routine life that he can’t even sleep anymore. He’s trying to find satisfaction in shopping, turning his crummy apartment into an Ikea catalog spread, but it’s just so… Urgh. The only way he gets to connect with other people is by going to self-help groups for people with testicular cancer, brain parasites or whatever. It seems people really care about you only if they think you’re gonna die. That’s in one of these meetings that he meets Marla, a chain-smoking Goth mermaid who hangs in these sessions because it’s cheaper than the movies and there’s free coffee. Suddenly, our Narrator can’t let go anymore by crying in the arms of other men, because the presence of another faker keeps reminding him he’s one too. This ain’t the last he’ll see of Marla. She’s about to influence drastically his life, but not nearly as much as Tyler Durden, an intriguing fellow who’s everything he’s not. Confident and charismatic, Tyler is an all-out anarchist who refuses to submit to the compromises of modern life. He splices frames of erected penises into family films when he works as a projectionist, pees in the soup when he’s a waiter. And he makes soap, too.
The Narrator finds himself intensely driven to Tyler and his radical thinking. They find that the best way to feel alive might be by beating the living shit out of each other. Soon, other people join in. Lotsa people. Fight clubs multiply, all over the nation. Seems today’s emasculated men are relieved to finally find a venue to unleash their frustration. They’re so numbed by their lives that they’re desperate to feel something, anything. Even if it means going at it in underground boxing clubs. Tyler takes it to the next phase by turning his fight clubs into units of Project Mayhem. And then it gets weird. Yeah, weirder than what you saw so far! I really can’t tell you anymore about the plot (even though the trailer gives away a lot more, as do some critics). The first rule of fight club is: You don’t talk about fight club. The second rule of fight club is: You don’t talk about fight club.
The film’s protagonist and narrator is played by Edward Norton, who goes beyond anything he’s done. There is so much nuance and intelligence in his unpredictable, always compelling performance. Brad Pitt is another very interesting actor, and he truly gives everything he’s got as Tyler Durden. Believe me, Tyler will crawl under your skin and stay there. I can hardly think of a more fascinating movie character. What’s the most disturbing about Tyler and the film in general is how it seduces you with its nihilistic philosophy, how it makes you relate to, understand and admire Tyler Durden… And then before you know it, you realize that you would have done anything, no matter how immoral and depraved, just because you had so much faith in him.
The movie is a frightening look at how any “normal” person could turn into a member of an extremist group. It shows how seductive anarchy and marginality can be at first, but it’s also responsible enough to also show how these things often get out of hand and go too far. This movie makes you understand why some turn into terrorists, why some take part in a death cult, why Germans followed blindly Hitler and committed some of the most atrocious acts in history. This is a movie that should be shown to everyone in schools to be discussed. This is a movie as powerful and thought provoking as “Do the Right Thing” or “Schindler’s List”. And it’s a comedy, too. One of the first things people too shaken by the issues of the film might talk about to lighten the mood might be the casting of rock star Meatloaf as Big Bob, a former bodybuilder who took so much steroids that he grew huge breasts and was deprived of his balls (literally). Or how shocking to see Helena Bonham Carter acting without wearing a corset, turning herself into the trashy Marla. Kudos to Carter for achieving to make Marla somehow endearing.
The film was adapted by newcomer Jim Uhls from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The book is incredibly rich and inventive: it’s almost scientific in its details. Can the movie live up to it? Astonishingly, yes. Director David Fincher found the way to communicate through images and sound the vibe Palahniuk sent through words. This ain’t your middle of the road studio picture. The film might seem difficult to some, because it’s so packed with ideas and doesn’t dumb down or sugar coat them. It has the bleak look of decay and filth also found in Fincher’s previous films, but it also has a refreshing playfulness. I saw “Fight Club” twice in a row on opening day, and I got to notice tons of nifty details each time. Like how there’s subliminal images of Tyler in the first act, as well as a frame of a penis spliced into the ending, and a bunch of other subtle things.
I also really like the film’s non-linear structure, how it constantly jumps back and forth in time and space, like a novel actually. The editing is particularly audacious and inventive. Let’s not forget the Dust Brothers: finally, a film score that sounds truly modern instead of sticking to the same tired faux-Wagner strings and brass. Their electronic, loop and sample woven, genre blending music makes the film even more electrifying. “Fight Club” is pure, unrestrained, riveting filmmaking. And if you think that “The Sixth Sense” had a fall-off-your-seat climactic twist, wait till you see what Palahniuk concocted. More than just a surprise, it’s a revelation that puts everything else in perspective, and makes it even scarier. The sequence that follows is therefore even more thrilling, as… Well, you’ll see. Oh, and you gotta love the final shot, a wonderfully ironic anti-happy end perfectly edited to the Pixies‘ Where is My Mind.
“Fight Club” burns ideas in your brain, thrills you with its fights, makes you laugh and uses the art of filmmaking in a whole new way. This is one for the ages. In Fight Club we trust.