“This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.”
Edward Norton plays The Narrator, a thirty something insomniac with a professional job and lavish apartment, really everything he would ever want, except for one thing; happiness. He has a hole in his life and he has no idea how to fill it. His endless days are a tedious bore and his evenings are often spent attending support groups, pretending to be a sufferer of cancer, bowel disease, whatever else happens to be above the door. He is a fraud, he knows that but he also soon realises that by attending these groups he is allowing himself to be someone else completely and with that having the ability to grieve and feel pain like someone else too. This is where we meet Bob (Meatloaf) and his bitch tits! Bob gives Narrator a shoulder to cry on, well not just a shoulder. He cries and cries and cries. He enjoys it. His fragile emotional state is improving. The insomnia is disappearing finally. That is until Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) turns up. She’s just like him, a fraud. Eventually he challenges her and they agree to attend separate support groups in an attempt to allow their masquerade to continue. Just when he thinks his life is back on track, it gets turned upside down when he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on one of his many flights around the US. Tyler is his polar opposite, everything he wants to be. Good looks, athletic physique, stylish, weirdly intelligent and most importantly, free. Tyler works for himself – making soap – and is not bound by any rules or regulations. He is also the only person he can think to contact after his apartment catches fire and blows up.
The Narrator becomes in complete awe of Tyler and his simple approach to life and all it’s intricate problems. He moves in with Tyler, who lives in a large, previously abandoned, dilapidated house in an unusually deserted part of town. After a while getting used to Tyler’s unconventional way of living, Narrator begins to feel at home and the two start up a budding friendship. Then things quickly turn sour when they come to blows in a parking lot outside a bar. During their fight, Narrator gets bloodied up quite a bit by the bigger, stronger man but in many ways the blood dripping from his mouth makes him feel more alive than he has ever felt before. Is this what it takes? A crowd gathers. People not only want to watch, they want to join in.
They see this as a sign and begin a ritual. They will fight every night and they make no objections to anyone who wants to join in, in fact they welcome it. Their following begins to grow rapidly and they birth their own secret underground fight club. The fighting helps the Narrator cope with other more complicated aspects of his life. His employer however doesn’t enjoy seeing him come to work in the morning with bloodstained shirts and missing teeth but the Narrator just threatens him. With the growth of Fight Club, the scope of it’s appeal and it’s overall intentions begin to multiply too.
Another complication in the Narrators existence is the intrusion of Marla Singer – the other support group fraud – who is now sleeping with Tyler and basically living at their house for nights on end. He keeps his distance though but with the stress of Marla and the increasingly large crowds of Fight Club members visiting his house at Tyler’s request, his life begins to spiral out of control.
It’s not long before Tyler and the Narrator’s friendship is tested to its full extent and they actually become enemies seeking a different purpose. Tyler wants to expand Fight Club, beyond anything they could’ve imagined, into Project Mayhem. The Narrator just wants a way out, but unfortunately for him, there is no escape.
Having read the book – albeit a few years after the movie – I can actually say that while I enjoyed the novel I preferred David Fincher’s dark adaptation. It’s not often I say I prefer the movie but for some reason people feel the need to compare the two like it’s a competition. Chuck Palahnuik’s mind is twisted and lurid and he puts everything of himself on the page but so does David Fincher (on the screen). His use of narration is superb and a perfect way to pull the strings one way while thrusting the audience in another. Norton never fails to impress as always, he is impeccable in nearly everything. Pitt cruises along nonchalantly, without seemingly putting in effort but he is undeniably unforgettable as Durden and in my eyes will forever be remembered with a pink bar of soap in his hand.
Bonham Carter doesn’t stray too far away from her normal type role here, a slightly older emo who smokes like a train and doesn’t own a hairbrush, but she delivers what is asked of her. In many ways she has the most integral part to play in the unfolding of the truth behind Tyler Durden and who he really is. The ending of course will be one of those “oh my God” twists that may be talked about for years to come but for me it wasn’t actually much of a revelation. I first watched this not long after watching Sixth Sense so part of me was very suspicious halfway through, although I do concede to wondering how the hell it could really happen, which when explained on screen did make me cringe a little bit. However it didn’t spoil the essence of what the movie was about or the effect it had on me after.
There’s an awful lot more going on here than men struggling to cope with their everyday lives by beating the shit out of other men. There’s endless messages to be taken, some obvious some hidden. Staying faithful to Palahnuik’s text, it explores a world rampant with consumerism and drowned in shallow values. It’s a violent punch in the face of structure and the fear that arises from the unfamiliar discontinuity that society can fall into when normal people ruthlessly challenge its fundamentals.
Fight Club got snubbed when Awards Season came round and I understand why, at times it’s darker than dark, horribly gory and often asks questions that the people in charge of “consideration” don’t want to answer, but while the lack of awards – and I’m talking about the big ones here – may be a travesty it adds to the cult status that the film has been immersed in. Besides, let’s not forget the first rule of Fight Club…
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter