Directed By David Fincher
20th Century Fox
By: Eric G.
Fight Club has all the right ingredients for an amazing film, but it left me feeling cheated and betrayed. Edward Norton plays a sad, self-absorbed insomniac obsessed with all that is material and superfluous, who finds refuge in attending support groups for serious maladies that he has no symptoms of. His perpetually blurred reality combined with his dry voice-over narration keeps a tight reign on the film’s tension and careful unraveling. Norton is in a hopelessly boring corporate job for one of the main American car manufacturing companies. As he drifts in a kind of twilight from car accident to car accident to survey whether his company is at fault, he meets Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, and everything suddenly changes.
Durden is everything that Norton’s depressed yuppie character is not. He’s a confident and fearless prankster with a determined vision to take down corporate America by destroying all of the credit card companies’ headquarters to set the debt record back to zero, so everyone will be equal. Durden’s cool maverick persona revolutionizes Norton’s perception of himself, so he forgets to care about all of the fluff in his own life and lets Durden lead the way for the future. The two start fighting just for fun one night after a few beers and find so much release that they start a club for frustrated men who need similar therapy. The film takes then giant strides into the land of the absurd.
Director David Fincher is known for his gruesome and gory excess, and Fight Club lives up to the expectation with a plethora of disturbing scenes. It’s like watching a train wreck; it’s awful but you can’t avert your eyes. His camera work is a dizzying mix of effects and bizarre angles. The bulk of the picture looks as if it were filmed in a sewer because everything is shrouded in darkness and dampness. Fincher’s last two films, Seven and The Game, shared this deliberately dark style much to the same effect. This time, however, Fincher’s “style” practically plays a role in the film as opposed merely to setting the tone. The film acknowledges the audience when the story gets out of hand and asks you to play along.
The screenplay is tight and confrontational with terse dialogue. The omnipresent theme of pointless consumerism seems a bit odd considering the fact that this film took over sixty million dollars to make, plus it stars Brad Pitt, one of today’s highest paid actors. The story is pretty rock solid for three fourths of the film despite its hyperbolic and extremist agenda. All of the absurdities are taken in stride because the film works well within its own slightly askew universe until the major cop out at the end. This film purports to have a surprise twist but it’s more like a lame let down. I won’t spoil it for you, but I guarantee you will be disappointed.
Fight Club is very funny underneath all of the contrived despair. Taken scene by scene it produces much nervous and uncomfortable laughter, which is always the best kind. Edward Norton never lets you down with his deadpan honesty, and Brad Pitt revels in his anti-star mode. Meatloaf and Helena Bonham Carter both turn in memorable performances in hilarious supporting roles as well. Like I said, Fight Club has all the right ingredients; it just avoids facing the monster it has created with a stupid cheat of an ending. All of Fincher’s crazy camera work can’t make up for it either. What a waste.