Fight Club

poster_fightclub

Okay, let’s get this over with. There are some movies that I just can’t grasp, and these are the ones I generally skip on reviewing. For whatever reason, I just don’t “get” them. It’s not that I don’t understand the plot, I just have something against them, which may or may not be justified. Since I’ve started blogging this has happened occasionally: my first viewing of Persona, Flight, The Searchers, Palermo Oder Wolfsburg, and The Wizard of Oz. My reaction to the film is so far from the consensus that I don’t feel comfortable reviewing it. Not necessarily because I’m afraid people will come after me for it, though that’s part of it, but mostly because I’m afraid I missed something. The truth is, that even if a film is good, if it goes against what you want out of movies then sometimes you can’t make yourself like it or even appreciate it. Such is the case with me and Fight Club.

Fight Club is the story of an unnamed narrator (Ed Norton) who is very unhappy with his life.  He travels around for work all the time, and feels as if he is the plaything of society. He tries to pick out the “kind of dining set defines [him] as a person” and boring, monotonous stuff like that. He gate crashes all of these therapy groups for diseases he doesn’t actually have, just so he can feel some emotion, even if he’s borrowing it from other people. Then one day on the plane, he meet Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) who is basically an idealized version of himself.

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Tyler is an alpha male type, and that description is me trying to be nice. Let me just tell you some of the things he does: cuts porn into kids’ films, urinates in the food of an unsuspecting public, gives people chemical burns, threatens people into living up to their full potential, makes soap out of human fat, and develops a cult devoted to beating other people up and eventually destroying society. Yeah, he’s such a great guy! He was my main problem with the film. I did not like him at all, and he was presented as a role model for most of the film so that was even more aggravating.

I did know the twist beforehand, which never helps, but given how much they foreshadowed it I would have hoped I could have caught it. Based on it’s classification as this big mind-blowing plot twist, I’m guessing not. I actually thought the movie got a lot more bearable after the twist though. Once the narrator was aware of what was happening, I thought maybe the film would say something critical of Tyler for a change. It tried, I think, but I can’t really be sure. And I was trying so hard not to spoil, but I have to work out my feelings here…

SPOILER ALERT! PLEASE AVOID IT IF YOU CAN! SAVE YOURSELF!

ednorton_fightclub

Tyler does a lot of bad things throughout the film, and they weren’t glamorized to the extent that they didn’t feel bad to me. After it turned out that Tyler and the narrator were the same person, I though the film might be a little more critical of what Tyler was doing. The mere fact that he turns out to be a product of an actual man’s psychotic delusions sort of confirms this, but he still has his weird terrorist cult following, which ends up succeeding in the end. The narrator might be hesitant to follow Tyler, but he does it anyway. Even when he “destroys” Tyler by shooting himself, all the credit card buildings still come down. The film doesn’t seem to explain what happens after the narrator destroys Tyler, and what this reveals about his morality (or sanity or whatever you want to call it). On one hand, he could have moved past all of this fight club nonsense and really left Tyler behind, and on the other he could have just become Tyler. He doesn’t need to imagine Tyler as a separate person anymore, because he really is Tyler (or, more accurately, he has accepted the Tyler-like qualities he already had).

I’m inclined to think it’s the second one, because Tyler’s stupid pornography gets spliced in at the end, he holds hands with Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), and all the credit card buildings are destroyed with relatively happy music. Since his having sex with Marla previously was actually him as Tyler, him being with Marla seems like something Tyler would do, though maybe it would have been something more extreme than holding hands. I don’t mind ambiguity in general, but in this case it’s frustrating because my endorsement of the film seems to hinge on it. Does the film actually believe all of this fight club stuff? Because that seems to be the main concern throughout most of the film. If they had focused on the narrator’s conflict specifically, and made his condition known right from the beginning, I would have liked the film so much more. I am philosophically opposed to the fight club idea; I think it’s ridiculous. As long as they’re just beating themselves up in the basement, I could care less really, but I don’t necessarily want to watch it. Once they start terrorizing everyone though, I can’t get on board or even tolerate it, even if it is just a movie. So in short, if they had presented this as a problem that the narrator has (he is clearly mentally ill) and not had all of this attacking society stuff, I would have liked the film a lot more.

END SPOILERS.

dudegetoutofmytherapygroup_fightclub

This is not to say that I didn’t appreciate the film on some levels. Some of the narrator’s voice overs were quite funny. The “I am Jack’s raging bile duct” and other assorted body parts was funny. I laughed. Even though I had some problems with him, I didn’t mind the narrator for the most part, because when you think about it what happened wasn’t his fault. I thought the performances, even Brad Pitt’s when I hated his character, were really strong across the board. I also liked Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) as a character, most of the time. Fincher excels again at creating a really ominous atmosphere with a depressing color scheme; I’m beginning to think that this is his greatest strength as a director. I have no problems with this film technically; the problems I had were with the story and the ideology.

As such, I would not necessarily tell people to avoid this film. It’s pretty well-made, but it’s very extreme in it’s politics. As if that wasn’t enough, it makes it’s politics the center of the film, which aggravates me even more. I hate it though. I know I should rewatch it, but it will take years, yes years, before I can bring myself to do it, if ever. I know that this is a very respected and beloved film, and I hate to hate on it, but that’s how I see it.

youcantreallytellwhatsgoingtohappensothisisnotaspoilerright_fightclub

“Fuck you! Fuck Fight Club! Fuck Marla! I am sick of all your shit!”

Long story short: 2.5/4 stars

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10 responses to “Fight Club

  1. You know what, even though I do really like this film, recently I think it’s gotten more praise than it deserves. I admire the movie, but after reevaluating it don’t consider it classic most do. Nice review.

    • Thanks!
      Yeah, it seems that everyone I run into loves this movie. I really haven’t heard of anyone, besides myself, that doesn’t like it. I think in most cases, people can already tell from the title if it will be their type of movie, and if it’s not they stay away from it. But I don’t really mind violence that much, so I didn’t really have a reason not to watch it (going in anyway). I clearly think it’s overrated, but I’m having a really hard time being objective about it. Nice to hear that even those who like the movie think so as well.

    • Yeah, that is part of it. But considering that a lot of chicks like this movie anyway….. that doesn’t explain all of it. The terrorism thing was what really put me over the edge.

    • It was made in a pre 9/11 world. I think our national sensitivities have changed since then. At the time, I was much more amenable to its themes of violent uprising. 😀

      I think its themes of masculinity in the modern world still resonate, even if you do have to forgive it its jihadist nature. LOL

      • That’s true. I barely even remember pre 9/11, because I was like five. I might be harder to get over for that reason.
        A lot of it is the tone of the movie too. Besides being really dark, Tyler is also really confrontational. I felt like the movie was trying to force me to think the way it did.

  2. I think part of what you’re missing (not all, necessarily, but part) is that you’re not a 20-something disaffected male. That was part of what I noticed when I watched it for the first time last year. When the movie came out, had I seen it, it would have had a pretty strong connection for me. I was young, broke, mad at the world, and was keenly aware the system was not designed in my favor. I wouldn’t have done the things Tyler did, but the firebrand mentality would have appealed greatly. But by the time I actually got around to watching it, I was in my early 30s… different mentality. Little more perspective, little more ability to say “Tyler has a point, but he’s still a jackass.” I still enjoyed the film quite a bit, and could recognize the resonance with my younger self, but it doesn’t speak to me the same way it would have back then.

    • That’s true, I will never really be in that position, so I can’t really judge for certain.
      But still, movies are supposed to take you inside of it, make you understand what’s going on, and clearly here you are supposed to be on its side. It ended up just alienating me. That’s definitely part of the problem, but I’m not going to let it off the hook for that.

      • I don’t know that you’re exactly supposed to be on Tyler’s side, but you definitely have a fair complaint about how it’s supposed to take you inside and make you understand. It’s a complaint I’ve leveled against a few acclaimed films myself, so I certainly can’t gainsay it here.

        • Yeah, I don’t think you’re supposed to fully endorse what he’s doing, but you are supposed to understand where he’s coming from and I think agree with it. I did, somewhat, but not the extent that I think the film wanted me to.

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