This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Kinotherapy’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Fight Club Review
This just might be my longest review yet.
Today I'm going to review one of my favorite movies of all time, "Fight Club" because I have a lot to say about it and the effect it's had over people from the past twenty years. Now if you say that you love "Fight Club" you're usually labeled as a cinebro, which I don't consider myself to be. I know I'm just speaking for myself here, but I consider myself to be a great admirer in highly artistic films. If you want proof you can look on my profile and see no other films of the cinebro caliber on there. But on film discussion pages, groups or forums there's at least one person who has to raise their snooty nose and blow their pretentious snot all over me. I've been in some pretentious film groups online, and whenever I post my top 10 films and include "Fight Club" and somebody's got to argue with me. Their main issues usually deal with the fanbase, just how toxic it is and especially how people misunderstand the film. Now I hate to be the person to tell someone "they didn't get it" as much as I hate when film fans tell that to me but in the case of "Fight Club" I think not only it's haters, but it's fans don't understand what the film was going for. And perhaps that's not anyone's fault. I didn't understand everything when I first viewed it and that's most likely because there's a lot going on in this film regarding both it's plot and it's themes. Taking into cosideration just how fast paced the editing can be it might not be easy to digest or catch everything on a first watch.
However this is the first thing the I love about "Fight Club" I used to think, maybe when I get older the film won't resonate with me as much as it used to. Maybe I'll grow up to be like these guys. But luckily that's not the case. In fact "Fight Club" got better everytime I watched it! Little details I may have missed, I always get something new or realize something new about the film after I watch it. That to me is a sure sign of a great film! Something that evolves and gives you a new experience everytime you watch it!
To the haters of this film, yes the fans can be annoying. Those who see it as just mindless violence or adimre Tyler Durden for doing things that the film is satirizing, or for doing things that him and the viewers claim to be so against. But tell me if you agree with me on this: I don't think obnoxious fans are a good reason for hating something. Trust me I have my gripes with annoying, out of touch, fans; but you know what's just as annoying as fans? Haters. Haters who generalize all fans, every person who likes that piece of media as toxic even if their not, to the point where the haters become just as toxic. In one of my online debates I told someone very respectfully about why I like the movie and what I see in it. His response was that he's just annoyed because of all the fans who misunderstand the film. So you just assumed I was one of those fans? So by your logic me and nobody else can put "Fight Club" as their favorite movie because you'll assume their a cancerous cinebro? You'll call out anyone who loves this film just because a few idiots get the wrong idea about it? A similar thing happened with the Rick and Morty fanbase fiasco. Yes, plenty of the fans are asinine 15 year olds, but I know plenty of fans are understanding and level headed. And haters have gotten to those fans too. "I don't know you, but all the fans of this piece of media is awful so I'm going to blame you for being one of them, even though I don't know that, and basically making it impossible for anyone to be a fan without being belittled"
Personally I don't see how anyone who loves films can call "Fight Club" bad though. Whether you agree with it's themes or not, it's a technically brilliant movie! Fincher's directing is top notch. There's constant green filters and dark shadows, to give the viewer a sickly and disturbing feeling of what they're watching. It's full of quick paced, break neck editing which gives the film it's incredible pacing. A method of delivering various information to you while keeping the film moving at an entertaining rate. The cast is perfectly selected too! Edward Norton is one of my favorite actors of all time and truly becomes this sad, pathetic, man. An everyday man coming loose at the hinges and he looks and plays the part well. Nobody was a better choice for Tyler Durden than Brad Pitt. Tyler is the ideal man. He is everything that the narrator wants to be, therefore he had to look handsome, strong, like a movie star, so who else would be more fit than Pitt? Helena Bonham Carter is perfect too as this disturbed, suicidal goth woman, Marla Singer. She embodies dreariness and the angsty attitude of giving up so clearly it's hard to think who else could play her. The music choices too are fantastic and memorable. Who can forget the iconic ending with that beautiful shot and Pixies song.
Another thing to keep in mind is to not take "Fight Club" too seriously. Remember the film is a black comedy. It's hard to pin down a genre on "Fight Club" but many scenes while being bitter, or dark are often funny in a strange, gallows and uncomfortable way. The laughs are almost thrown away at points which I think reinforces how the narrator feels about this world he's living in. When many of us here about something awful or tragic, we'll often shrug it off. Hell, we might even joke about it to ease the tension of such news, but we rarely do anything. Not saying The Narrator does do anything to change this (at least not in a productive way) but it shows the narrators frustrations and motivates him. But I reiterate my first statement in that "Fight Club" is in part a dark comedy, so it's okay to have fun and laugh and understand that as deep as the film tries to go, it's not being 'super' serious.
So when the film opens we meet an unnamed narrator who's been suffering from insomnia. In film a nameless character often insinuates that their hiding a great deal from us. Another instance, in the case of "Fight Club" it signifies a loss of identity. In the modern world, society has stripped people down of who they really are and has them be defined by their job, their furniture, their clothes, what food they eat and what they buy. The Narrator is seen flipping through catalogues asking himself, "What kind of furniture defines me as a person." A man who is desperate for an identity doesn't even realize it until the insomnia hits. He states the "everyday feels like a copy of a copy of a copy" The Narrator already does the same thing everyday. But when you don't sleep your life just becomes one long day. An endless day of doing the same things over and over and over again.
Now one complaint I see of "Fight Club" is on it's themes of consumerism, materialism, or in other words it's "We live in a society" vibe. And let me just say right off the bat, I know there's more to "Fight Club" than just these societal topics. I'll talk more about masculinity, fascism, homosexuality, hypocrisy and group mentality all soon. And while the film takes off from this social commentary, I still feel like the film is about these themes. These are real issues that plague our society but also individuals. It can cause people to literally lose themselves. "American Psycho" is another great example of how the maximist culture can make people do radical things in search of identity. Having no remorse for ethics or others, when you only care about yourself. And if you don't think consumerism is that big of an issue, look at how people act on Black Friday. Look at how businesses were buying out politicians to tell the public the corona virus is gone so people can risk their health just to shop for things they don't need. Look at how Jeff Bezos treats his employees. One employee stated that he felt like a cog in a machine. That he could be replaced just like that if he were to fall. That is a scary thought, and that's what plagues our protagonist. The fact that rather than being an individual, he's a piece in a machine. Designed and used the way they made him. As what he was supposed to be. But you are right, as "Fight Club" has one central theme of which everything ties into: Identity. Everyting our protagonist comes across every topic and them I'm going to talk about, society, sexuality, belonging to a group, all play into what makes someone who they are. Can someone truly be an individaul with all these outside influences?
Anyway, our insomniac narrator decides to solve his apathy by going to support groups of diseases which he does not have. Places where he can finally let go of all that stress and despair eating away inside of him. It's therapuetic for him. Are there other ways for him to get therapy? Of course. Is this incredibly messed up? Yes, but the film never condones this behavior. The film never condones any of the behavior in this film, despite how much some want to argue it or the fans think it does. Truth is, this film is for adults. The adults should be able to decipher what is wrong and what is right. They shouldn't need a film to hold their hand and lecture them on things they should know. The Narrator doesn't know who he is, he doesn't know why he is sad. He isn't even capable of having his own emotions! Besides another element comes into play: The Narrator's masculinity is at stake. He's embarassed to be crying or feeling emotions anywhere at all even in the privacy of his home. He can't cry about not sleeping or working a boring job. He needs to toughen up, right men? He needs an excuse, therefore indulges in support groups to let it all out. In the testicular cancer group, the men have all lost their testicles symbolizing a loss of manhood. The Narrator then describes Bob who he calls "Bitch-tits" Bob again demasculizing him.
The Narrator is whiny, but you know what, he really doesn't complain at first. In fact he tries not to. He suffers along with it, but that only proves to worsen his mental health. So the support groups seem to be working out really well for our narrator, that is until he meets a woman named Marla Singer, who partakes in the same group therapies as him. Marla is an interesting addition to the story as she puts all of The Narrator's innermost thoughts on display. She represents his guilt and hypocrisy. The Narrator is angry at her for doing exactly what he's doing. He expresses a bitter hatred of her that ruins his flow without much explanation as to why he hates her. Marla is how every toxic male sees a woman, as a moody contentious object. Our Narrator either hates her wants to destroy her, or have sex with her. He rarely shows any regard for her well-being, although that does change as the film progresses.
Soon the Narrator goes on business trips which only makes his insomnia worse due to jet lag and constant time zone changes. He's sent to inspect accidents in which his company's faulty vehicles have killed people. The purpose of his job is to dispute any claims against the products, and 'prove' that it was the passengers fault, not the vehicles. I shouldn't have to explain how messed up that is. Soon after, The Narrator meets Tyler Durden, a soap salesman who gains the immediate infatuation of our protagonist. What really captivates him and the viewers is his philosophy. "The things you own end up owning you" or "Only until you've lost everything, can you truly be free." Tyler is the part of the film which derives a lot of controversy. The Cinebro fans seem to idolize him, while the haters, well, hate him. And I'll admit, when I first saw this movie as a teenager, I loved Tyler Durden. Okay, maybe I even idolized in the wrong way, but that's just how the film portrays him, and that's what he is to the Narrator. He is everyting that anyone wants to be. He's smart, good-looking, does whatever he wants and gets away with it. But one thing is for sure that Tyler is the villain. Despite how cool he might seem and how true his philosophies might be, he resorts to flat out terrorism just to let out his frustration with how mundane his life is. The protagonist fights with him and kills him at the end so if the film was condoning his actions, why is his defeat seen as a victory for The Narrator? And I apologize as I seem to be targeting the haters more than the mislead fans, so let me state here: If you view Tyler as anything more than just a character and idolize him as a role model to be, stop it, get some help. You're clearly not paying enough attention to the film you claim to love so much. I still love Tyler Durden but in a different way. He's a fun character, I agree with the roots of his ideals, and maybe there's a sick part of me that wants to be like him, but I'm grown up and my better judgement knows I shouldn't. My opinion on him now is, I like the things Tyler Durden says, but I strongly disagree with everything he does.
Tyler is shown to be a soap salesman of which he makes by stealing lyposuctioned fat from hospitals. This is not just a quirky moment, as it's a metaphor for how Tyler literally uses people as objects as a mean for his own gain.
When you get down to it, Tyler is even more upset than The Narrator. He explains how this generation is like the middle child. They're living for nothing, no great cause or movement, thus is the drab life of 1999. He was told that he would grow up to do great things but none of it happened. They were a generation raised by women to slave at crappy jobs for rich people and compete in a ratrace. Basically Tyler's main goal, is to be noticed. He's angry at God and says it's better to be noticed than be good so he acts out like an angsty child. When The Narrator and Tyler start their fight club, it's for the sole purpose of feeling numb and gaining excitement and adreneline of fighting. To feel powerful for a few minutes and to reclaim their manhood. I also find it funny how all these guys just return to their lives with bruises and scars all over them and nobody points it out. As if they're too afraid to break the mold of their daily lives.
It's when Project Mayhem comes into play that things start to escalate, and I also hear one of the dumbest complaints about the film. "If Tyler says he's against society brainwashing people, then why does he make a group full of rules to brainwash people?" ... YES! THAT'S THE POINT!!! Do you really think Chuck Palahniuk was writing his novel and just completely forgot about that major character trait of Tyler? "Oh no! I wrote Tyler to hate these kind of fascist groups, but then I accidently wrote him making one! I completely forgot!" Project Mayhem brings to the surface many of the themes of "Fight Club" including group mentality, the rise of fascism/ terrorism and masculinity. Tyler is quick to express individuality and instills this quality in his supporters or 'space monkeys' as deemed by The Narrator. All the space monkeys beleive they are individuals now, they feel free, but are in reality still following a crowd and a set of rules limiting their freedom. This is an issue that seems ever more evident nowadays. Political sides and religions; people are quick to think that they are thinking for themselves, but they're only serving a greedy master who is using them for his own intentions. This can even work for an analogy of businesses. The Narrator refers to his father as starting families and then leaving, using the phrase "Starting franchises". Once again I'll return to the soap metaphor, as this is how groups or businesses are formed. They use people as dehumanized objects to start their cause. The film never shows Project Mayhem as a good thing. The Narrator becomes disturbed at their actions on the news (much to the confusion of the space monkeys.) He even tries to stop Tyler's plan at the end.
But don't worry haters, you're not the only ones confused. The toxic fans will copy Tyler and do what he wants them to do not realizing their becoming what they claim to hate and being hypocritical. These men become so self absorbed with reclaiming their manhood that it goes out of control! Their anger and cynicism becomes unstoppable. They even become masochistic making it difficult to stop them. They take the pain... like a man. But many don't realize that Chuck Palahniuk, a gay man, wrote this as a criticism against masculinity. Many of you probably don't know me that well, but trust me, I can't stand toxic masculinity. Those alpha males who think they're better than everyone, only car about cars, sports and see women as objects. I can't stand men of that caliber. I also find it funny how many of them do get soft, but deny it, but that's for another time. I don't attain to be 'manly' in any way at all. I have no interest in joining a club, especially one where all you do is punch the shit out of each other. I don't not want to pour acidic chemicals on my hand. I will not let go of the wheel while driving in the rain. And I will not try to blow up buildings in order to erase everyone's credit score. That's not even how that works. Credit Scores are all stored on computers, how is toppling buildings going to solve that?
The Narrator himself is still frustrated by the world around him and constantly blames everything else. He blames society for making him what he's become. He blames Marla and Tyler for the things he's done. "I'm not going to support groups, Marla is" "I'm not running amock with destruction and anarchy on the city, Tyler is!" I've personally seen these characters, but especially Tyler as that. Tyler is another part of the Narrator of which he wants to be but is too afraid to completely become. But in addition to that, The Narrator shifts all the blame onto his imaginary, split personality. This again also ties into the central theme of identity. The Narrator doesn't want to be himself, he wants to be someone else, yet at the same time he's too afraid to be Tyler, so creates him as a seperate personality.
The twist also gets some criticism for being cliche or predictable. First of all this is the twist that started the cliche it was so famous. Yes there were a couple instances in the past of this similar reveal but for the most part "Fight Club" is one of the most notable. And as I mentioned above, the twist is actually thematically tied into the story and is necassary not just as a surprise for storytelling, but in a way that depicts The Narrator's plights on a deeper, more terrifying level. What also makes this twist great is that there were hints all along the film. constant little details, sometimes big details that we glossed over... well most of us. Some were quick to catch on to what was happening, and that's okay. Even on my first viewing I thought there was something up with Tyler and the way The Narrator interacted with him. But it's still fascinating to see all the tiny details Fincher added just to make the experience feel more authentic. Tyler calls from a payphone which can't receive calls. They have the same breifcase, Tyler doesn't pay when he gets on the bus, The Narrator's spirit animal is a penguin, and when the two first meet, Tyler is wearing a shirt with penguins on it. Even before they meet Tyler appears, through little blips in editing, and another time included in the staff of a hotel the Narrator is staying at. This is just one of my favorite things of "Fight Club".
Now I'm not the kind of person to praise a movie simply because it has a meaning (if that was the case then Green Book and Crash would actually deserve the best picture award) but I personally love to see is how the meaning is portrayed in the film. Is it just a lazy message tacked on at the end? Or are the choices, the artistic merit, and even the subtle details, crucial to exploring this theme and and representing it well. This is what I love about "Fight Club" the message is weaved into the story and film. The themes and film are synonymous with each other and to change either one would completely alter the end product.
And I'm not denying there are people who like this movie for all the wrong reasons, but I find strange is film buffs usually hate to use that as a means for hating a film. Like many of us say, what a person does are their own actions and a ficitonal story shouldn't take responsibility for it. So if you're going to criticize "Fight Club" for influencing the wrong people, then perhaps you should criticize Scarface or any other gangster film for being loved by gangsters for all the wrong reasons. Don't believe me? Every thug has a tattoo of Tony Montana, and I doubt it's because they think he's cute. How about how stock brokers on Wall Street loved "The Wolf of Wall Street?" Is that a bad film now too? I guess The Godfather is a terrible movie now because mobsters loved it and mobsters are bad. Also one more thing I have to point out is all the examples are taking scenarios, or things that already exist and telling stories about them, not vice versa. Sure people might watch a crime film and be sucked into the glory, but with all the criticism that "Fight Club" gets, I have yet to see a mock "Project Mayhem" rise up and cause terror in the nation. Despite some news sources claiming it would happen. "Just like how when 'Clockwork Orange' was released it made kids dress up in jock straps and go around in violent gangs!" Yeah, remember that... All they came up with was that teenagers were forming underground fight clubs, and as plausible as that could be, they didn't cite any sources or share evidence about this. But hey, as long as guys aren't punching me, or blowing up my house, I'm good!
Tyler tells gives him one of the few instances of actual advice and that is of control. To stop trying to control everything around him and just let things happen. In the end The Narrator has freed himself from Tyler by shooting himself. He miraculously lives but is symbolically reborn. His old self is dead, and he is reborn as someone ready to begin a better life. He will stop blaming Marla and society, he will stop trying to change the world around him and accept his life. Make the most out of what he does have.
Another thing the film has been called out on is it's product placement while the film is so anti-consumerism. This is done ironically and is pretty evidently so. There's a Starbucks coffee cup in almost every scene in this film, and the other logos are so in your face that it's hard to see how this basically is parody. Keep in mind this is when Starbucks first gained popularity. Many thought the whole idea was ridiculous to spend so money on coffee, but here we are, and now Starbucks is as big as McDonald's. We allowed this to happen, and people drink it up like their automobiles getting their fill of fuel. By the way I have never once had Starbucks, take that sheeple!
The film uses these issues of consumerism as a means of fueling the Narrator's anger, but it's something we can all relate to and understand. "Fight Club" is about men directing their anger in unhealthy ways that escalate and get worse and worse. This is both frightening, but also a little humorous, how men refuse to show any emotion except for anger and angst. I don't believe there's anything wrong with feeling this way, but Chuck Palahniuk's timeless story is visceral and comedic satire on Male stereotypes and their toxic, hypocritical behaviors.
And so we come to the end, and I hope I can open some of your eyes if not to the film, then at least to why people like the film. Maybe you did like the film and you understand it a little more. Again it's okay, I didn't see the film all the clearly on my first veiwing, but each subsequent rewatch it becomes clearer and better than I remember. I'm sorry if I made anyone feel bad, I tried to be respectful. And if you still don't like "Fight Club" that's fine. I'm not here to completely change your mind automatically or tell you you're wrong for not liking it. I just feel like people dislike the film for all the wrong reasons, and maybe after reading this lengthy essay, you might be eager to give it another chance and be more open to it. Just look closely, and have fun!
"Fight Club" is a brilliant film on a technical, craft level and in it's themes. It's a fast paced rush of adreneline that makes you feel powerful and distrubed all at the same time. It's part psychological, thriller, satire, comedy, romance, but whatever it is "Fight Club" is always stimulating, eye opening, and entertaining! I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but I firmly believe that "Fight Club" is a masterpeice, and I will defend it to my grave! There's no other rating I could possibly give a movie with this much effort put in.
Also The Narrator is gay for Tyler, but this analysis is already too long.