Monday, February 6, 2012

100 Movies - No. 39 - Fight Club

39. Fight Club (1999)
Drama, 139 minutes
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter

Why do I like Fight Club? It seems to suggest that violence and anarchy are good things, but that's certainly not something I believe. I think it comes down to the dark comedy and the strong script, coupled with excellent performances from Norton and Pitt. This is a cool world to experience, but I wouldn't want to live in it.

The story seems perfectly traditional at first. We see Norton on a plane. He's referred to as The Narrator in the credits and seems to think of himself as Jack. He encounters Tyler Durden (Pitt) and takes his business card. Jack returns home to find that there's been an explosion in his apartment, so he calls Durden and eventually asks to stay at his house for a while. Durden is a cheerful, carefree lunatic who wants Jack to punch him. The two fight on the street and decide to recruit members and form Fight Club, believing that it's an expression of freedom.

Jack spends his free time visiting support groups. We see him hugging people with testicular cancer and all manner of diseases. He enjoys letting his inhibitions go and listening to the members speak about their illnesses. After a while, he becomes aware of Marla (Helena Bonham Carter). Like him, she's a tourist visiting the various support groups. He confronts her and they agree to attend different classes.

Durden encourages Jack to stop trying to live up to the expectations of other people. As a result, Jack becomes more assertive. He challenges the authority of his boss and stops worrying about his appearance and the latest IKEA catalog. He regularly shows up for work with fresh cuts and bruises. Jack finds that he enjoys his new image. One thing he doesn't like is Durden forming a relationship with Marla.

Fight Club is set in a gritty world and makes the viewer feel unclean while watching it. Fincher is good at creating unsettling worlds and this one is similar to those found in The Game and Se7en. Durden's house appears derelict and the neighborhood is seedy. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Durden has a purpose for starting Fight Club. The recruits are assigned tasks to disrupt society and members can come from any occupational background. It's like a secret society.

Fight Club contains a major twist and I won't reveal it for those who haven't ever seen the movie. The twist elevates the movie to a different level. Subsequent viewings are enhanced because you'll notice little details you may have missed the first time. It's clever how everything ties together. The ending annoys some viewers, but it works perfectly for me. The final sequence is set to one of my favorite Pixies' songs and is probably my favorite scene in the entire movie.

Although it's not an action movie, Fight Club is a pure adrenaline rush. From the opening credits set to the pounding beat of the Dust Brothers, it rarely lets up until the relative calm of the closing scene.

I'm enjoying this project and got more out of Fight Club on yesterday's viewing than I ever have before. Just don't go out and copy the behavior it depicts.

If you like Fight Club:

One of the most important themes in Fight Club is mental illness. I like examining the way in which that can mess with viewpoint characters and alter our perceptions. Other movies which have successfully used the same tactic include Mulholland Dr., Lost Highway and Shutter Island. Lynch is a master at blurring the line between fantasy and reality. Scorsese does a good job in Shutter Island. All three movies have endless replay value, even when you know the reveals. Fincher fans will probably enjoy The Game and Se7en because both contain gritty settings and have a similar feel.

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  1. Nice review. Fight Club is one of my favorite films. Fincher is a genius.

  2. Fincher does make good movies. It's hard to review Fight Club without giving away too much of the story. I really enjoyed seeing it again a couple of days ago.