Fight Club (1999)
Directed by: David Fincher Runtime: 2 hr. 19 min. Studio: 20th Century Fox Rated: R
Screenwriter: Jim Uhls Adapted from: Chuck Palahniuk’s book Fight Club
Cast: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham-Carter, Meatloaf
Flight Club is a well-directed original packaging of nuanced, layered themes crafted with satire and dark-twisted humor. It’s wearing an electric blue tuxedo to a black and white ball. It looks good on the one wearing it, but it still rubs everyone else the wrong way.
In 1999, when this film came out, it knocked on consumerism, corporate greed, and the smothering of the human spirit. Companies never want to be singled out for their hypocrisy and ruin the status quo. It’s ironic enough that this is a Hollywood movie with A-list actors delivering this message. Though Brad Pitt and Edward Norton laughed their way through the critic’s contempt of this film.
Part of that contempt stemmed from the “glorification of violence” months after the Columbine shootings. The start of school shootings making the news in America. A few years later, 9-11 happened, in part, to protest the ways of Western cultures. Timing is everything, and I don’t know if there would ever be “a good year” to release this movie. This film can still be appreciated by a new modern audience because the message still applies. That point will make sense if you see the film, but you won’t understand it from the trailer.
For a film trailer Flight Club’s is good and an absolute misrepresentation of what this film is. Usually, that occurs when a movie sucks, but this time it was because the studio didn’t know how to market it. Honestly, it’s like they didn’t try. Instead, they framed it as a macho film where mostly white people beat the crap out of one another, cause destruction, and in all that, something is a woman’s fault. Choosing to do that pissed off director David Fincher. But, there is only so much he can say about that, and the studios own choice to do that probably aided the dismal showing at the box office.
The themes embedded into this movie’s layers show why the characters throw punches; it’s not just for the hell of it. Fight Club is actually very intellectual sophisticated in how it sets up and shows you what it is. The Narrator (Edward Norton) befriends Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soap maker, after his life goes sideways. Within that friendship, they create a flight club. The logic for its creation and what it later becomes is one factor that gives this move good pacing. Along the way, they get tangled up with the hot-mess that is Marla Singer (Helena Bonham-Carter). Each of their respective performances shows superb depth and commitment. They really get into their characters. Developing them with raw, vulgar, and dark honesty enables the cast to deliver amazingly memorable performances.
When the audience starts to put some things together about the characters, it highlights an undercurrent to Flight Club. Really a central question that most can’t honestly answer. Not, ‘am I trapped by consumerism’ or ‘bogged down by a job I hate,’ no. It highlights that everyone has a breaking point and when they get to that point, do they realize it? Tyler Durden (Pitt) says, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” Such a statement can be taken in many ways. Those who have experienced a significant loss or hit rock bottom from addition know this all too well. If you have nothing left to lose, where do you go? How do you go? It’s a critical distinction from the notion that this film was framed to support toxic masculinity and wanton violence.
Flight Club is this humorously dark and twisted reminder that people go to extremes to be heard. That they don’t understand how stress affects their health and when they need help. It is a representation of Jack’s last nerve.
I broke the first rule of Fight Club. I talked about it. Tough. In the years since its box office letdown Fight Club has become a cult classic.
Fight Club is not for you if you are easily offended. If you like any of the actors in this film you should see it. If satire dark humor with action is your thing, you should see it. After seeing this movie for the first time in over 15 years, it was still worth watching again. I say any film that can do that is worth a spot on anyone’s watch list.
—a pen lady
1 thought on “Fight Club (1999)”
The trailer sure did undersell it, but there were so many free postcards for it back in 1999. And they definitely hinted that this was a far bigger and more complex story.
In fact, in 1999 I’m not even sure the trailer was widely available (pre-youtube and all that), and being an R18+ film here I don’t know if the trailer was even allowed to be played in cinemas.
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