Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Jim Uhls (screenplay), Chuck Palahniuk (novel)
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meatloaf
Beloved the world over by high school and college males of all ages as a philosophical masterpiece, David Fincher’s Fight Club has continuously stayed on cinema’s cerebrum ever since it became a cult hit on DVD. Do I dare challenge the consensus that this film isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? I almost feel obligated to.
For starters, these so-called philosophical musings. Is a movie that promotes fighting back against a society that questions your manhood really something we should be promoting? Isn’t that what has gotten us involved in every single conflict since the dawn of time? What most consider unique in this film is actually just the same old masculinity complex American males are expected to suffer from.
As critic Lisa Schwarzbaum put it in her initial negative review of the film,
The giant international furnishings chain IKEA is responsible for many consumer-based phenomena, among them our docile acceptance of cheap, hinged desk lamps that droop like spent lilies. But I hadn’t realized that overexposure to IKEA results in limp penises, too, until I saw Fight Club.
This is just the first of a number of problems in this film. What initially passes as intelligence is really just stupidity worded smartly. “We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives,” says Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden. It really translates to “I don’t have an outlet for my aggression, so I must pout and then explode.” Football is apparently not an option, and not being involved in World War III is a negative.
Another problem I have with this brute is its take on women. Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) is the only female in the entire movie, and exists, as Schwarzbaum puts it, “as a trash receptacle for sex.”
I understand that the film focuses on a man’s struggle and ultimate failure to achieve his identity in any normal way, but if you’re going to incorporate a female into the narrative, does it have to be one that exists purely to spread her legs in between spouts of emasculating dialogue?
Enough about the philosophy of the film. How does it stack up in terms of direction and acting? Not as bad, but that isn’t saying much. Fincher is an indisputably good director, watch Zodiac for proof of that. But here he seems obsessed with making this some kind of unique art-house thing. He takes the grimy tone to the extreme, and sometimes it’s too much.
There’s nothing out of place on the acting front. Edward Norton is almost always serious, and here he gets to be just that. He doesn’t show the prowess he does in films like American History X or The Illusionist, but he’s a tolerable lead character.
Most of the hype surrounding this film revolves around Tyler Durden (Pitt). This was important for the actor in many ways. It gave him an image, and it gave him a signature role. Sadly, he has to spout off a lot of the idealistic bullshit in the script. It’s not a bad piece of acting, but it is by no means his best work. Any renown his performance garners is based on the lines he gets to deliver, a common misconception by many movie viewers.
As a whole, this film can best be described as many talented people doing something mundane with insulting source material. It’s absurd to think IKEA is castrating the American male; it’s even more absurd that so many take the notion to heart.