“The things you own end up owning you,” Tyler Durden said during “Fight Club.” It’s one of my favorite lines from any movie, by virtue of both its delivery and its substance.
I looked on the IMDB site to see how many people had written about “Fight Club,” and it was a surprisingly high number: 2,412. So how does one write something that is going to be original or give any insight that has not been offered before? I don’t know. Like it or not, here are my thoughts on Fight Club:
The movie “Fight Club,” eponymously named, is based on Chuck Palahniuk’s controversial 1996 novel, which had an initial poor showing, selling few copies. According to Palahniuk, the novel was inspired by real events that took place while on a camping trip. Some men can’t resist a good brawl it seems. When Palahniuk returned to work battered and bruised, all of his co-workers assiduously avoided him, apparently unwilling to ask what had happened on his trip. It was his coworkers’ palpable reluctance to inquire about his real, serious injuries that inspired the writing of “Fight Club.”
Like the novel, “Fight Club” the movie (also a rather daring and controversial film) did not make a splash in the marketplace. Fight Club made only about $37 million dollars—just over half of the film’s budget, which served as one factor contributing to the head of 20th Century Fox resigning the next year.
However, the further one gets away from its release, the more “Fight Club’s” popularity grows. When the movie was released, the critics were deeply divided, either effusively praising it or violently hating it. Some critics even went so far as to label it “mindless fascism.” For quite some time, “Fight Club” never appeared on any movie polls ranking the 100 greatest films, but when one searches today’s individual favorite lists or popularity polls, it’s consistently considered the landmark film of the 90s. Why does its audience keep growing? Is it because Fight Club is simply a brilliant movie? Perhaps because it is a commentary on modern American consumerism. No one can know for certain; perhaps that is the reason the question continues to persist.
But I digress. The movie is about a nameless (and sleepless) man who is incredibly bored with his humdrum, bureaucratic life. Then he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt—and also the other half of his split personality), who goes on to teach him a series of bizarre life lessons. These lessons unravel piece by piece, all while people engage in brutal fist fights as a way of managing whatever their issues with modern society may be. These fights morph into other activities that prove to be increasingly more self-destructive—like destroying “corporate art” or intentionally inciting a fight with a stranger and then loosing. As the movie moves forward, the “homework” assigned to “Fight Club” members is designed to lead to chaos and anarchy.
The cast of Fight Club is superb. Brad Pitt (of whom I am not normally a fan) gives an extraordinary performance as Tyler Durden. Pitt makes you believe that Tyler is a part of his own personality. Even his twisted laugh throughout the film makes the watcher believe he is a wing-nut. You also find yourself hanging on every word Edward Norton says throughout his narration. Norton’s acting ability is always worth the price of admission, and it is particularly sharp here. In the beginning of the movie, his character is an insomnia-suffering zombie living the mundane corporate life. Norton transitions his character right up until the end, when it becomes clear that he is a changed man.
Now, the icing on the cake: As anyone who has read my reviews on this site knows, there are few things that I loathe more than movies that are whiny, nagging, or worse, preachy. “Fight Club” offers us story that is the antitheses of all that I despise in traditional milquetoast movies.
If you have not seen it, do so. If you have already, take the time to watch it again.