Fight Club is one of those films where I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw it. I will admit, I’m a sucker for a twist ending and didn’t see this one coming at all. But it isn’t a story that relies on shock value, despite their being a lot of shocking content, but sheds a light on a lost generation struggling to find meaning in a world filled with consumerism and with no great struggle to define them. The acting, the directing, and the script are all perfection, and while it is now considered a modern classic, it received little attention by the big awards when it was released (one Oscar nomination for sound effects editing).
This film was an obvious labor of love on the part of director David Fincher and stars Ed Norton and Brad Pitt. Fincher is among the great directors of his generation, with a distinct style that really fits the core of this film. I’ve heard it said that he directs movies “you can smell” and the world of Fight Club reeks. Norton and Pitt were very involved with finding props and creating small moments that further drive the film’s main themes across. Both insisted that their characters destroy a Volkswagen Beetle saying “It’s a perfect example of the Baby Boomer generation marketing its youth culture to us. As if our happiness is going to come by buying the symbol of their youth movement” . It’s clear that they felt the film’s message of this lost generation was very important.
I think Tyler Durden an interesting marker in Brad Pitt’s career. He’s one of a handful of Hollywood pretty boys who has purposely taken riskier roles to be taken seriously as an actor. While basically playing the man every man wishes he was, Pitt still really goes balls to the wall creating this gritty, unstable character. I think early on, he felt his path to respect was to take on the uglier parts, while now he is choosing more traditional “Oscar films”. I kind of miss this Brad Pitt.
I recommend a viewing of this film with the audio commentary by Fincher and the three leads. You not only learn a of fun facts about the process of making this film, but it’s fairly clear that the men (Fincher, Norton, Pitt) filmed their commentary separately from Helena Bonham Carter, but it takes you awhile to figure it out. It’s pretty hilarious. The guys will be telling a story about how they found some prop, laughing and reminiscing, then Helena Bonham Carter comes out of nowhere, talking about her character. When I first listened to it, I was really confused because it sounds like they are all in the same room but nobody interacts with Bonham Carter. She never comments on what the others are saying and nobody acknowledges her. I pictured the four of them in the room, the guys having a good time and then here comes Helena talking about HER character, and the dudes waiting for her to finish so they could continue to ignore her. They were either recorded at separate locations, or Helena Bonham Carter is crazy and nobody likes her. I’m going to go with the former, but the latter is funnier.
While I am predisposed to make fun of Helena Bonham Carter, she really does an amazing job in this film. It’s so easy to ignore her, being that this is such a dude movie at its core, but Marla is such a complex character. She is the most vulnerable to the twist ending, so her choices have to make sense the first time you watch it and during repeat viewings. I notice something new about her performance every time I watch this film.
I don’t think this film could have been made post-9/11. There are some obvious plot points that would probably be deemed insensitive in today’s culture and the main characters become terrorists, which would be a bigger problem now, but I think the overall theme wouldn’t be touch today either, despite still being relevant. The film claims the protagonists are from a generation who has no great tragedy to define them and are therefore doomed to search for their identity. However, despite obvious generation defining markers (9/11, the Iraq War, everything Bush did, the recession) there is still a feeling of “when are we going to be adult” among those in their 40s, 30s, & 20s. I think this film has the answers to a lot of our current problems as a country, how we are raised thinking we are a special and unique snowflake but are still pressured to conform and get that big job so you can buy more crap you don’t need. It’s an honest love letter to a generation who needs a punch in the face once in a while.
Tyler Durden:You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.