Wednesday, 1 July 2015
Blindspot: Fight Club (1999)
I'd like to go on the record to say that I've never been the biggest fan of David Fincher. I'd seen two movies of his before this one and neither made a huge impact. I could never get into The Social Network the same way everyone else seemed to, and I felt lis ike Panic Room had a very good buildup that ended up leading to an underwhelming conclusion. Still, Fight Club was a movie I kept hearing about everywhere. Everyone seemed to be talking about Fight Club (even though both the first and second rule of Fight Club is that you're not supposed to talk about Fight Club).
Naturally, since it was also iconic enough to be easy to find it made a good candidate for my 2015 Blindspot list. This was a popular one, just about everybody who commented on my lists recommended that I see Fight Club, and out of the Fincher movies I've seen so far, this is probably the best. The surprising thing is that Fight Club proved to be absolutely nothing like I would have expected from its premise. I wasn't completely sure what to expect, but it proved to be a very strange and disorienting film that went in some odd directions.
An unnamed character played by Edward Norton is an everyday man who has a dull job in an office and is suffering from clinical depression and insomnia. When he tries to consult a doctor and claims to be "suffering" this character is told to visit a testicular cancer support group to see what pain really means. He does so and finds this to be an unexpectedly pleasant experience after making friends with a man named Robert "Bob" Paulsen (Meat Loaf). Suddenly he realizes that support groups are comforting to him and he begins sneaking into several other support groups. After a few weeks, he has become a regular participant in just about every type of support group except a support group for people who have addictions for sneaking into support groups. One day he encounters a strange mentally unstable woman named Marla Singer who also begins doing the same thing, coincidentally sneaking into every single one of the same support groups.
The part with the actual "Fight Club" begins when the main character encounters Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a projectionist and part-time waiter whose hobbies include urinating in people's food and splicing pornographic shots into family films (why the theater he works at hasn't already sacked him I don't know). When the protagonist's apartment mysteriously catches fire, he has no choice but to turn to Durden for a place to stay. The two of them then begin getting into regular fights outside a local bar which draws interest from other patrons. This leads to the idea of starting an underground "Fight Club" where men (women are excluded, presumably the result of a certain choice made by Marla) can beat the crap out of each other as a way of venting all their anger.
At first it proves effective and becomes extremely popular, but over time things spiral out of control as fight clubs begin emerging around America. Increasingly large numbers of men join in, and suddenly it begins to turn into something more closely resembling a terrorist organization. Combining that with an... unexpected twist about how these two men are connected, the protagonist quickly finds himself in over his head and needing to do something about it fast, but Fight Club always seems to be one step ahead.
Naturally, this is one violent movie (which is saying something considering Kill Bill and Gangs of New York were also on my list for this year). The fight scenes are extremely vivid and graphic and there are a lot of them (and that's just the fistfights, not even getting into the attempted castration or self-inflicted gunshot wounds). The film also demonstrates quite effectively just how much those fights must hurt. Curiously enough, for once I also found I was never totally bothered by the lack of women. I couldn't help noticing it and found it a curious choice but I presume it had something to do with Tyler's characterization. They also seemed to constantly draw attention to the men's backwards thinking. I also never could seem to decide if Helena Bonham Carter's role of Marla Singer was a strong female character or not. In any case, she was certainly still an interesting and eccentric figure.
The plot of the movie, on the other hand, is quite a disorienting one. I will definitely give credit that I did not see a lot of the twists coming, especially the big reveal about where Tyler comes from (which I will refrain from stating), but I'm still not sure I understood everything that went on here. It certainly got confusing on several occasions, since there was a lot of stuff going on and I will also confess that I had some trouble wrapping my mind around some of the twists. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, or if it just means this is the kind of movie one has to watch several times to fully understand. It's certainly got me thinking about it which is a good sign.
From what I've seen of David Fincher's work, Fight Club is probably one of his best if only on the grounds that as weird and disorienting as it is I could actually get into it unlike The Social Network or Panic Room. It is a curious and strange movie to be sure, one that I'm still not totally sure I understand but certainly a film that seems to be worth talking about. The first rule of fight club is that you're not supposed to talk about Fight Club, but for this movie that seems like a rule worth breaking.