The first rule of this review is don’t talk about this review.
The second rule of this review is don’t talk about this review.
Fight Club. It’s been on cable lately. I’ve caught it a couple times and I’ve become addicted to it. I saw it when it came out and I realized even then that it was awesome and revolutionary, but I feel like I have a greater appreciation of it now that I’ve gotten older.
The general plot: Edward Norton plays a corporate office drone. We never get his real name. He’s a mopey sad sack, depressed with his life. Feeling no sense of purpose, he goes to work, comes home, and spends his money buying useless crap for his home. Stuff that he doesn’t need. He hopes it will make him happy but nothing makes him happy.
One day, the highly opinionated, ultra violent, doesn’t give a shit about anything Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) walks into Norton’s life. Tyler browbeats Norton into starting “Fight Club” and the first rule of Fight Club is to never talk about Fight Club.
The club consists of grown men meeting in a basement and beating the crap out of each other. I suppose that film critics could argue about what exactly that means but the gist seems to be that the more physical pain these dudes endure, the less shits they give.
“Stop giving a shit” is essentially Tyler’s message to Norton. Tyler informs Norton that he needs to give up on the idea that he’ll live forever, that he must accept that he’ll die one day, that everything is in a sense of decay and people just waste their lives doing pointless shit and coming up with excuses as to why they can’t do what they want.
Millennials, you guys think you’re depressed? Please. You don’t hold a candle to Generation X and in many ways, this film captures the ennui my generation suffered in our younger days.
Take Tyler’s “Great Depression” Speech, for example:
“Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who have ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. Goddammit, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man; no purpose or place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won’t; and we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
Shit. I was just a youngster when I first heard Tyler say that. I didn’t think much of it. Many years later, I realize the meaning. He’s right. Generation X didn’t have World War II, or Vietnam. Things were actually pretty good in the world and you’d think that’s a good thing but the problem that arises is when the people of a generation don’t have to worry about a great cause, or a big war or what have you, then they have time to focus on doing what they actually want…and sadly, it’s just human nature to come up with excuses to explain away why we aren’t doing what we want to do. Even worse, try as we might, there just aren’t enough resources for everyone to do what they want to do.
Oddly, I’m in a weird place where I’m on the tail end of Generation X. A few years later, I could have been a millennial. Tyler may have been off a little bit. Little did he know that two years after this movie, 9/11 would happen and that would change the world, especially people like me who were just becoming adults around that time.
In a way, the movie makes a lot of points about life and how its too easy to feel hopeless. It captures the mood of Generation X well, but then again, after 9/11, it seems kind of sad that we felt bad that there wasn’t a great conflict. Hell, I’d do anything to go back to the pre-9/11 days and be like Ed Norton with nothing to worry about but what useless crap to buy from the catalog.
Anyway, enough of the philosophy. From a writing standpoint, the film is brilliant. There are many twists and turns that are unexpected yet they blow you away. The film also builds a formula and that it feeds on and uses to build itself. Fight Club grows, the number of Fight Club members grow, they all become pawns for Tyler to move around in the giant mental game of chess he’s playing.
Helena Bonham Carter stars as Marla Singer, a crazy lady loved by Norton but banged by Tyler, much to Norton’s dismay.
Meanwhile, a young Jared Leto appears in a supporting role as the platinum blonde Angel Face. Even 1970s music legend Meat Loaf joins Fight Club as the large breasted Robert Paulson.
I dunno, 3.5 readers. Check out the film. There’s a lot of different meanings. You can sort of get a sense of the purpose-less-ness (if that’s a word) that young people felt at the time, and then again, there’s the message of stop pursuing materialism, stop making excuses for why you aren’t doing what you want to do, stop living a boring life. No, you don’t (and should not) start an illegal Fight Club turned widespread criminal organization, but you could realize that life is short and it is a shame if you don’t at least try to do what you want to do.