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Fight Club (1999)

Only one of them is actually there…

The final of our trilogy of movies about wanting to be somebody else.   John Anderon became Neo in “The Matrix,” Kevin Spacey quit his job and started smoking pot, and Edward Norton morphs into Brad Pitt at night.  (I mean, if you could, who wouldn’t?)

All three are products of their time in unique ways, “Fight Club” most of all in its writing.  Based on a book by Portland writer Chuck Palahniuk, the snarky wit sometimes feels dated (“I am Jack’s inflamed sense of rejection”) but never feels derivative or moldy.  The twist ending is actually pretty well done (though I’ve never figured out exactly how Marla fits into it all) and it’s quite a shock when you realize that Norton’s character never gets a name.

Edward Norton hates his life, because it is too perfect.  To quote the Sex Pistols, everythings’ so pretty… pretty vacant.  So when his apartment blows up in a “freak” explosion, he moves into an abadoned house with Brad Pitt and starts fights with strangers.  Also, they make soap out of human fat.  And start a cult of warriors.  Until suddenly he realizes it’s all gone too far, and Brad Pitt doesn’t even exist.  But by then, it’s far too late to stop things that have been put in motion.

A lot of critics, especially in recent years, have derided “Fight Club” as fascist, macho, infantile, etc.  Certainly, post-9/11, the final image of office buildings blowing up has taken on a different significance than it had in 1999.  But I think these critics are mostly missing the point.  “Fight Club” isn’t about solutions, it’s about problems. It’s not about accepting a fascist, sexist ideology; it’s about rejecting one that is stifling and dehumanizing.  Of course the answers it offers to suburban malaise are ridiculous and unrealistic.  Isn’t that why Norton tries to put an end to it all in the final act?  It’s a lot easier to offer a knee-jerk reaction to feelings of angst and malaise than it is to construct a truly satisfying answer.  But come on, it’s a movie called “Fight Club.”  Were you expecting Noam Chomsky?

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Posted in All Reviews.

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