#12 – Fight Club (1999)

I know, I know – I’m doing this out of order. The thing is, this project is obviously going to take years to complete and I want to watch them in any order I like. Chaos reigns.

Fight Club has a score of 8.8 on IMDb, from 1.9 million audience votes.

An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soap maker form an underground fight club that evolves into much more.

Fight Club is another one of those films like The Sixth Sense where even people who have never seen it will know quite a lot about it. Everyone knows the first rule of Fight Club, and everyone knows the second rule of Fight Club. A good few will also know that Tyler Durden isn’t a real person. I knew the twist going in, and it’s one of those movies where knowing the twist beforehand makes it a better movie – just like Shutter Island. You get to see all the hints and freeze frame bonuses that stare at you in the face.

Overall, I’d have to say I enjoyed the movie. I was a little disappointed by the cheery wrapped up ending but it was one hell of a trip to get there. It may be a stupid thing to say but I will press on regardless: I was a little taken aback by how violent Fight Club is. I expected the actual combat scenes, of course, but they were a lot bloodier than I’d been prepared for. They show enough blood and physical contact that the parts where the camera cuts away from the action are made even worse thanks to the audience’s imagination. Another memorably horrific scene is the one where Tyler Durden burns The Narrator’s hand with lye. It’s really difficult to watch, especially with the knowledge that the dude is doing it to himself.

It’s pretty gruesome, but there’s enough black comedy that makes the film very watchable. Watching The Narrator haggle with Marla about which support groups they get to go to is genuinely hilarious, and there’s some cathartic glee in watching the movie actively take the piss out of the product placement they have.

Fight Club relies heavily on its actors putting on a great performance, and they do that incredibly successfully. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are obviously the standouts – they play the unhealthy couple dynamic extremely well for two characters not in a relationship. In fact, the film is overall a little bit… gay. I wasn’t kidding when I said that Tyler Durden and The Narrator’s relationship evokes romantic themes. They live together, rely on each other, and fight like a long-term couple. Add to this lots of toplessness and male physical contact (yeah, it’s fighting, but come on) and I’m a little surprised that Fight Club isn’t more of a big title in the gay community.

Additionally, I’d be remiss not to mention Helena Bonham Carter and Meatloaf too, they stood out amongst the supporting cast and managed to be two characters you could root for – on a good day, anyway.

Watching Tyler Durden’s (and therefore, The Narrator’s) downfall from cocky barfly to domestic terror cell leader is a very interesting process. It happens ever so gradually, and then leaps forwards with alacrity. Watching the two characters split apart from each other in their goals and perceptions is gripping stuff, and you can’t help but feel terrible for The Narrator as his life becomes more and more complicated. The movie’s pacing feels wild towards the end and that’s likely a conscious decision – The Narrator is bouncing between his personalities and coping less and less, the audience is only privy to the stand-out moments that he is likely to remember as a result.

Related to that, I loved how the film’s narrative is so firmly rooted to The Narrator. We never get to see things from other people’s points of view and even when the movie follows Tyler Durden, it’s eventually revealed to be The Narrator in one of his fugue states. While not exactly an accurate depiction of the sort of mental illness that would lead to Dissociative Identity Disorder, it’s a very engaging example of the condition on the big screen. Notably, it does manage to depict the memory loss and depression that often come with the disorder, but it’s still dramatised for effect.

It’s a good movie that suffers only slightly by the dramatic “V For Vendetta” style ending that feels a bit too camp and perfect for such a gruesome, gritty story. I seriously enjoyed it.

Verdict: Hot leads, cool twists, gritty as fuck, Meatloaf

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