Tuesday, 16 August 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 61 - Fight Club

#40 - Fight Club

The first rule about Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.
Well since I can’t review this film without talking about Fight Club then you’re just going to have to brand me a troublesome rule breaker. We have the young and talented David Fincher, he of Alien3, Panic Room and Se7en coming along to adapt a little known book by Chuck Palahniuk and churn out one of the most beloved and well known thrillers in popular culture today. We have three all star lead actors, plenty of violence, blood, sex, drugs and no rock and roll but plenty of post-modernism to make up for it. Gentlemen, I am about to talk about Fight Club.

We have a young guy narrating the film. We never learn his name but for some reason the booklet that comes with the DVD calls him Jack (probably because of all the “I am Jack’s <insert angsty emotion that fits this particular scene>” quotes he drops). The Narrator is an insomniac, working an unlikeable job and being pretty much a slave to the IKEA catalogue, ordering nearly everything in it to make his apartment seem perfect. In order to stop himself feeling empty, he starts visiting all these support groups for diseases he does not have and takes great pleasure in shedding crocodile tears to complete strangers. He meets a bit of a kindred spirit at these groups – a lady called Marla Singer who is like him. She is a “tourist” who does not have any diseases but still goes to these groups because “they’re cheaper than a movie and there’s free coffee”. She even shows up to a group for testicular cancer. But Marla comes back into the story later as the Narrator meets someone else unique on a plane. Tyler Durden is a soap salesman who is a free spirit, dangerously wild, and he convinces our young protagonist that learning how to fight can make his life better. After their street fighting antics attract a bit of a crowd, the two start an underground organisation which is the eponymous Fight Club. Slowly but surely this club becomes reorganised into a virtual terrorist cell.

I find Edward Norton to be really underrated as an actor, even though people generally know who he is. He isn’t really on the same level of stardom as Brad Pitt or Helena Bonham Carter but I would like to see him get plenty more recognition. He definitely went all out for this film considering before he had bulked up considerably for American History X and then had to slim down immediately to act in this. While this isn’t the best film he’s been in (yes, there’s more to come) I find this character to be one of his more entertaining and interesting ones to watch. I would say relatable since I’m an insomniac myself (how many of these entries do you think have been typed up at 2AM?) but I haven’t started going to those kinds of support groups yet. Maybe if the guy had Facebook, this all could have been avoided? Anyway Norton just adds a whole lot to the character, making him likeable and entertaining. It finally seems we have a male narrator candidate to take over from Morgan Freeman, though I see this as kind of a one-shot narrator deal for Mr Norton. His co-star Brad Pitt tries to steal the show and nearly succeeds but they both end up equally entertaining. It seems Mr Pitt can play just about any character and here he chooses the wild out of touch with reality type who somehow can pull off flamboyant “off the wall” clothes and make them look cool. 

Our leading lady is Helena Bonham Carter playing Marla and finally getting a chance to breathe by stepping away from her usual roles as prissy English ladies in lavish costume dramas and pretty much doing what Deborah Kerr did with From Here To Eternity. Her American accent is pretty sexy and she’s just brilliant playing against her usual type of character.

The film has been described as a bit of a coming of age story similar to films like The Graduate only for a man in his 30s. Fincher has described the Narrator as the opposite of that type of guy – someone who has no possibilities or opportunities in front of him and can’t imagine a way to change his life. He also calls it a bit of a romantic comedy which, if you take out all the fighting and domestic terrorism, it kind of is.
The whole thing is definitely morally challenging, as well as visually stunning. Fincher has used impressive and eye-catching camera work and special effects that were incredibly ground breaking at the time (remember this is 1999 we’re talking about). He did borrow from some of the same camera tricks he used in Se7en and a few from Alien3 to give the film its dark and gritty quality. It makes good use of dark lighting, filming most scenes at night and those during the day were done in places with a lot of shadows. This helps reflect the fact that the Narrator is practically living through the night since he can’t sleep. If you look closely you can also see Tyler appearing briefly in some earlier shots, flickering in and out almost like the devil on the shoulder. 

Out of all the scenes, I enjoyed most of Marla’s the best. Helena just plays this woman so uniquely. There’s one scene where she claims to have taken pills to kill herself and Tyler goes over to her apartment to take her away. The cops arrive, having been called about Marla and she pretends to be someone else calling after them “the girl who lives in that apartment used to be a charming, lovely girl but she’s lost faith in herself”, delivering the line completely stoned. I just also love her in the last scene where she is in the middle of a rant and then stops to say “oh my god, your face”. The fight scenes are all pretty cool to watch though there’s no choreographed varying mixed martial arts styles that you’d see in Tekken, just bare knuckle fist fighting you’d see in every bar in a small town in Ireland. The scenes at the support groups are entertaining for all the wrong reasons. This film is so wrong, I love it.

And there you have it, that’s what you get when you talk about Fight Club. I am a big fan of David Fincher and I consider this to be his second-best film (yes you will see the first coming right up), providing a nice commentary on the inner aggressions of the average male over the age of 30. And of course providing a lot of bloodied shirtless scenes for the females and giving us a trippy glimpse of Helen Bonham Carter’s boobs. I was shocked to find out the studio didn’t like the film and that it didn’t do so well at the box office but I wasn’t shocked to find out that it was one of the most controversial films of that year. These days however it has been established as a cult film and the critics have slowly warmed to it. The first rule of Bobby’s Club is you must follow me on Twitter and tune in tomorrow. Later days.

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