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.
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!
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.
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.
“Fuck you! Fuck Fight Club! Fuck Marla! I am sick of all your shit!”
Long story short: 2.5/4 stars