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Fight Club   B

20th Century Fox

Year Released: 1999
MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Fincher
Writer: David Fincher (based on the novel by Chuck Paluhniuk)
Cast: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

David Fincher has a thing for dark, gritty atmosphere. The stylish director plunged us into his dark visions with Alien3 , Seven, and The Game. His latest descent into darkness is the entertaining mindfuck of a movie Fight Club, which also serves as blatant social commentary about how corporate America and monolithic companies like Ikea and Starbucks are turning men into little pansies who are only complete if they have Calvin Klein's name on their ass and a nice bedroom furniture set.

Edward Norton plays the narrator, Jack, who is suffering from insomnia. He literally goes through his days at his white-collar business job like a zombie, unable to find anything to help him through his miserable existence (ah, but at least his apartment is furnished to the hilt courtesy of Ikea). To help him cope with his insomnia, he becomes a support group junkie -- even though he doesn't suffer from testicular cancer, alcoholism, leukemia, or any other such affliction. Being able to completely open up to strangers and cry somehow lets him sleep at night. He even forms a bond with a guy named Bob, played by Meat Loaf, who has big breasts due to a hormonal imbalance. But when the chain-smoking Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) starts crashing his support group meetings, he can't sleep again. With another "faker" in attendance, Jack just can't let go.

For those of you who missed it when it played in theaters last year, does Fight Club sound weird yet? Well, just wait.

Jack meets another strange guy named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) who makes soap (out of human fat, of course) for a living. Tyler lives in a dirty, decaying old house with no TV because he doesn't need any of life's meaningless "material" things. "Your possessions end up owning you," Tyler tells Jack. And throughout this movie, we're subjected to Tyler's philosophies on life (and many of them are quite intriguing), but one has to wonder who is speaking his mind here -- Tyler Durden or David Fincher?

At the risk of giving away too much of the plot, I'll just tell you that Jack and Tyler become buddies and start a nice little club in which men can beat the shit out of each other and have no hard feelings afterward. But, of course, this "Fight Club" evolves to include anarchy and mass crime. And the crazy ride this film takes you on may be too much for viewers expecting a typical mainstream thriller. The narrative is told mostly in flashbacks, and there's a twist near the end that'll hit you like a punch in the face.

At the center of Fight Club is another wonderful performance by Edward Norton. If it wasn't for him, I wonder how well this insane cinematic experience would have held together. Brad Pitt's take on the character of Tyler Durden is a breath of fresh air; he's kinda disturbing and very funny at the same time. Helena Bonham Carter does what she can with her character, but the role of Marla is largely underwritten.

In the end, Fight Club is a pretty funny movie. Some people may fail to see the humor in such a dark movie, but it's there. It satirizes the white-collar yuppie lifestyle in a way a bit different than this year's American Psycho does. Although Fight Club fails to get its point across clearly (some viewers will walk away with the mistaken notion that the film was promoting anarchy and mass violence), it's still a ride worth taking. After you watch Fight Club (preferably with a friend or two), you should head down to the nearest Starbucks and discuss all the important social issues you learned about over a nice Expresso.

Review published 04.28.2000.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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