Movie Dictator Club: Fight Club (1999)

fight club

My entry in the Movie Dictator Club for the month of June, 2009!

Screenplay By: Jim Uhls
Directed By: David Fincher

Yet another lovely lass from Filmspotting is responsible for my dictated film this month. This time the lovely lady in question is ses593, and her dictation to me for the month of June, 2009 was none other than Fight Club. Now, Fight Club was a film on my radar for some time, but for a bevy of reasons I had never gotten around to it. I somehow managed to avoid hearing, reading or learning anything about the movie, so going into it I was guaranteed a one hundred percent fresh and new experience. Of course, I still had to deal with all the hype that Fight Club has garnered over the years, as well as a rather tiresome and ugly appearance from Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and David Fincher on a recent award show where apparently being honored by a fourth rate cable TV station ten years after the films release somehow validated the film against any negative reviews it had received over the years. In a way that event colored my perception of the film, but as I sat down to watch Fight Club I did my darnedest to remove the award show debacle from my mind.

Upon finishing Fight Club and reading about it a little I was constantly surprised by one thing, the amount of people who held Fight Club in high esteem as a “cool” movie. Le Cercle Rouge is cool, heck, I may not like it but Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is a movie that wants to be seen as cool. Fight Club isn’t nor does it want to be seen as cool in any way. The people found in Fight Club are rotten to the core, the movie acknowledges this and shouts at the people watching, “No one you see in this film is cool, you really shouldn’t like what they are doing.” Yet so many people come away from Fight Club with the idea that the movie is cool personified and I can only surmise that is because to this day people still refuse to differentiate innovative and glitzy camera techniques from a movie telling you that something or someone is cool. That’s not to say Fight Club is anything like my favorite whipping post, MASH, where it lavishes praise on its detestable characters. Fight Club goes the other route, stylizing what you see but bringing the stylization to the audience in the form of vassals the audience should find detestable. Why this idea of cool has sprung up says more about society than it does Fight Club, despite what a lot of critical minds would like to believe.

With that bit of jabberwocky out of the way let’s move on to the message of Fight Club. Truth be told the message of Fight Club can be a lot of different things depending on the viewer, but for me it fell solidly on the anti-consumerism side of the ledger. However, I didn’t feel it was a strong suit of the film and actually found it a bit heavy handed at times. I have no doubt my view is colored by having seen American Psycho first, a film that I find tackles the same theme and delivers the same message, but does so in much better fashion and avoids the heavy handed prattle. I also take some issue with a film that is extremely anti-consumerism but is only produced as part of a consumer culture and relies on a consumer driven culture to succeed and ever be seen at all. But, that’s more of an outside knock on the filmmakers and not something that can be held against the actual film itself.

I don’t know if I’ve conveyed yet whether Fight Club worked for me or not. Well, it did, I quite enjoyed it. I liked the slick camera work, I liked the overall theme (even if it wasn’t a major strength) and I loved the twist. Maybe it is old hat to most people, but I honestly didn’t see it coming and was shocked when it did occur. In retrospect it makes perfect sense and turns what I was ready to label a major flaw in the movie, the narration, into a major strength of the film. The twist tied the film together and added depth to the performances of Pitt and Norton, but also to the cast around them when you think about their reactions to Norton throughout the film.

The above brings me to both my favorite part of Fight Club as well as the aspect that drove a metaphorical wedge between myself and the movie. I liked Brad Pitt a lot, don’t get me wrong, but I was never as captivated by his characters interactions with Edward Norton as I was with Helena Bonham Carter’s. Unfortunately this created less of a pull for chunks of the movie as I found myself waiting for Bonham Carter to reappear and get that storyline rolling again. I realize that in the end they all tie together and none of the stories can function without the other, but I was mesmerized by Bonham Carter’s performance and bedazzled by her storyline. I wanted more of that, more of the dichotomy that made up her character and was then reflected in Norton’s character. I realize this places me deeply in the minority, but I’m okay with that, just as I am happy to have finally seen Bonham Carter really show me something as an actress.

While I don’t place Fight Club among the all-time greats as most people do, nor would I place it above Se7en as far as Fincher’s best work goes, it is a movie I am glad to have finally seen. I hope my words here haven’t deluded anyone into thinking I didn’t like Fight Club, because I really did and it’s a movie that for me falls into the great but just below really great spectrum. Either way I thank ses593 for her dictation, Fight Club was a blast to watch!

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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6 responses to “Movie Dictator Club: Fight Club (1999)

  1. edgarchaput

    It’s interesting that you found Helena Bonham Carter’s performance thrilling. She often gets forgotten when people talk about this film. It’s one of the few Carter performances I like actually. Admittedly, I seem to only watch her in mediocre-to-bad films, but I never felt she was an actress who could elevate the scripts she was given. In Fight Club she is pretty good though.

    I think your perception of how the film tackles anti-consumerism (or lack thereof of tackling the subject) may rest with when you finally watched the movie, which is now in 2009. I think it was smirnoff on the boards who said that the film had a greater impact on the anti-consumerism culture in 1999 than it does today. A decade ago perhaps people were less sentitized to this counter-culture and thus more impressed by this message. Today it’s practically hip to be counter-cultural and in the anti-consumerist camp, so it doesn’t feel as if Fight Club is doing anything highly original. Still, I think the movie is effective enough in that department.

  2. mcarteratthemovies

    Although I like her, Helena Bonham Carter always seems to play characters who look like they’ve stumbled out of the nearest mental hospital. I’m waiting for her to take a part where she’s not a drug addict, a weirdo or a nutjob.

    M. Carter at the Movies

  3. Hello Poster#2, have you seen Howards End / The Wings of the Dove / Live From Baghdad / Merlin it’s only recently HBC started playing loonies.

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  6. Edgar – You may be right, the timing of when I watched the film probably did have an impact on my views.

    M – She does often seem like she just stumbled out of a looney bin at worst, and bed at best. I don’t often like her, but every once in a while she impresses.

    Encore – I haven’t seen any of those, maybe they will change my perception of her.

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