Fight Club (1999)

fight club IMDb

I remember really liking Fight Club when it first came out, but on second viewing I’m not having it. This movie preaches a hyper-masculine version of manhood that is becoming less relevant as time goes on. At least the twist ending is still fun to watch.

This film centers on the unnamed Narrator (Edward Norton) who is suffering from insomnia. Following the tongue-in-cheek advice of his doctor, the Narrator begins attending a testicular cancer support group despite not having the disease himself. While attending a meeting the Narrator begins to cry and is finally able to sleep after this emotional release. His comfort is short lived, as the appearance of another “tourist” to his support groups, Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), reminds him of his own status as a faker. Robbed of his twisted therapy, the Narrator succumbs to insomnia once more, until he meets a mysterious stranger by the name of Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).

Fight Club is full of macho posturing wrapped up in anti-consumerist criticism. I actually liked the beginning of the movie when the Narrator cures his insomnia by crying. Given that boys are raised to believe that crying is for girls and they should swallow their emotions, this scene felt incredibly genuine. I imagine it would be a relief for many men to be able to cry whenever they need to without fear of judgement. But then Marla arrives, and it’s made abundantly clear that she ruins everything for the Narrator. He doesn’t like that she challenges him and reminds him of his own deficiencies.

So much of the film after this point feels like a criticism of women. Once the Narrator’s meets a mysterious stranger by the name of Tyler Durden, the film becomes an homage to hyper-masculinity. Tyler laments the emasculation of a generation of men raised by women, and forms the titular “fight club,” where guys meet to brutally beat each other until one of them submits. Everything about Tyler’s existence is macho, there’s no room for women unless they are being used for sex. His disdain for consumerism is bred from this rejection of the feminine, and is manifested in his soap company where he uses human fat and literally sells women “their fat asses back to them.”

It’s just all too extreme for my taste. The male characters are either completely feminized (Meatloaf plays a testicular cancer survivor who has literally developed breasts) or hyper-masculine. There is no in between. The only way to be a man is to be Tyler Durden– an “alpha male” with no attachments or moral compass.

While I reject the validity of most of the themes presented in Fight Club, the movie itself is well made and incredibly acted. The primary cast– Pitt, Norton, and Carter– are all excellent to watch and have great chemistry together. The storytelling is great, bolstered by some creative editing and special effects. Even knowing how it all ends I found myself completely engaged in the movie. This is a fun film to re-watch, noticing all those now obvious clues that were completely missed the first time around.

Still, if you ever meet a man who says this is his favorite movie, maybe don’t give him your number.

Rating: C+

This movie has attained cult status since its release, mostly due to the awesome twist ending and terrific performances from Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. I feel like Brad Pitt is underrated as an actor. He is well known for his looks, but he regularly shows in movies like Fight Club that he has talent and is much more than just a pretty face.

Fight Club is the story of Edward Norton’s unnamed character (he is only credited as ‘the narrator’, we never know his real name). He is a sad man who suffers from insomnia. The only way he can sleep at night is when he attends self-help meeting groups for men suffering from cancer. He gets off on convincing these guys he has the same ailments they do when he really doesn’t and it allows him to get a good night’s sleep. When his ruse is ruined by another faker (Helena Bonham carter), Norton starts suffering from insomnia again. One day while flying, he meets a man called Tyler Durden (Pitt). The two become friends and Norton moves in with him after his apartment building burns down. The two create a ‘fight club’, where members will pummel each other until the one concedes defeat. The group grows quickly, and Durden uses these naïve men to create a terrorist organisation, intent on causing mayhem. Norton realises that Durden is fast becoming out of control and must prevent him from carrying out his plan of mass destruction, by any means necessary.

This is a very raw and gritty film. The fight scenes are really brutal, and at time, this is a difficult film to watch. The charisma of Pitt and his terrific chemistry with Ed Norton save this movie from becoming too depressing.

Obviously I’m not going into the twist ending here. Most know about it by now, but I’m not going to ruin it in this review. If you’re watching Fight Club for the first time, the reveal at the end of the film is really well done. One of the problems I had with watching it for a second time is that when you know the ending, it becomes really obvious throughout the film what is happening. I had a similar feeling when I watched The Sixth Sense again. There are so many hints of the ending that is coming, if you know what you’re looking for, it is really easy to spot.

This film is worth seeing for Norton and Pitt’s performance alone. Both are at the top of their game here and work really well together. Like I said before, I wish Brad Pitt could get a little more credit for his acting skills. Performances like this show me he certainly deserves it.

Rating: B+

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