Fincher’s finest? ‘Fight Club’

Fight Club (1999)

8/10  R

Get ready to party like it’s 1999, because I’m about to tackle Fight Club. The first rule of this review? Talk about this review. Seriously, tell everyone. In director David Fincher’s lighter specimen of neo-noire, Edward Norton plays the wonderfully enigmatic and simply named “narrator,” who discovers the time of his life when he and Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, begin a raucous fight club. Before the inception of the basement-bound society of rough-and-readies, the narrator frequents disease support groups in order to fit in. Every weeknight, he stops by churches and schools filled with cancer survivors, stroke victims, or alcoholics, where he finds future fight clubbers like Robert Paulson (Meatloaf) and an enemy, Mara Singer (a scene-stealing performance by Helena Bonham Carter). Fight club begins as a small group of guys with a need to blow off steam, but soon becomes a nationwide organization on the brink of annihilation—and this puny narrator is the only one that can put an end to it. Norton is capable of reaching an intense level of eeriness in his narration, driving the darkness of this highly psychological drama. Even better is Pitt, who likely plays the role of his life when he takes on the sensational adrenaline junkie. But it’s Helena Bonham Carter who seems to steal the spotlight in a role that fits the creepy personas of the rest of the characters in her résumé (Bellatrix Lestrange in The Deathly Hallows, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd). The music of Fight Club is the soundtrack of your dark, drug-induced fantasies – a steely, screeching string of synth. The first rule of the Oscars: if you recognize the Academy, as Edward Norton does in a revealing phone conversation with a detective, the Academy will recognize you (even if it is with just one nomination, for Best Sound Editing, and even if you do lose to The Matrix). In fact, of IMDb’s top 15 movies, only The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly received fewer Oscar nominations than Fight Club. Despite that, it’s still ranked 12th overall, ranked the 10th best drama and the 4th greatest movie of the 1990s. And it comes bearing a message – you ain’t alive unless you’re living a little—also, don’t start clubs that require a code of silence. And it’s filled with profundities about life, joy, and death, with social commentary like “we’re slaves with white collars” to “the Great Depression is our lives” and “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everyone drops to zero.” Academy Award-nominated director Fincher has had recent successes lately, winning the Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards for Best Directing for 2010’s The Social Network and picking up more nominations for directing 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but barely got any nominations before 2007’s Zodiac. And just last year Fincher had his hand in another success, bringing Stieg Larsen’s novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the big screen in an way Oscar approved of. But before then, Fight Club and Se7en (while they didn’t give Fincher any Oscar nominations) were clearly more successful amongst IMDb users, and I thought 2001’s Panic Room was thrillingly superior (though neither the Academy nor the general population seemed to agree). Written by Chuck Palahniuk, the novel off which Fight Club was based was written in 1996, and the adapted screenplay was helmed by screenwriter Jim Uhls (Jumper). Fight Club provides the perfect balance between dark and fun, and it’s a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience. There’s only one rule: see it.

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6 thoughts on “Fincher’s finest? ‘Fight Club’

  1. Tackle away! Amazing how many of my students miss that this is satire and not actually advocating hand-to-hand combat. Smart satire, the amazing Fincher at work…THE GAME is another noir goodie of his…

    1. David Fincher seems to be that director that’s behind some of the better movies of the past decade and a half, but no one seems to know him by name. I would argue he’s not the auteur that Scorsese and Allen are, so perhaps he just hasn’t put that stamp on his work (movies like Se7en and The Social Network are so different)

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