« MAGNOLIA | Main | Watchmen »

March 01, 2009


Fincher Does Palahniuk
Blood, Sweat, and Emotional Bankruptcy Follow    
By Cole Smithey

Colesmithey.comMisogynist, anti-capitalist, and class-conscious, novelist Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club” takes a "Trainspotting" brand of glee in dismissing lifestyle mores and status quo materialist limitations of American social existence.

This black comedy plays like a boys-only video game where male audience members encouraged to kick over the machine that ate their quarters. For all of the controversy surrounding the movie for fear that young males will begin setting up fight clubs of their own all around the world, the theory is countered directly in the movie as Ed Norton’s nameless character comes to view his dimwitted, class-conscious Fight Club cohorts as complete morons. — These are people who, in Lou Reed's words, follow the first thing that comes along that allows them the right to be; you know it's called bad luck.


Indeed the Fight Club cult that Norton sets up under the tutelage of his brutal disenfranchised alter ego/evil-twin, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), digresses into a flesh-chewing tombstone that gets dumped on the floor like so much bloody brain matter.

From David Fincher's hyper sci-fi juiced credit sequence — underscored by searing punk music — to its "Blade Runner"/"Mean Streets" ending, the visionary filmmaker pulls out every stop in his arsenal of cinematic tricks to deliver walloping visual blows. Fincher’s visual approach is aggressive, and packed to the surface with such a high sperm count that you can almost see the microscopic swimmers bursting to get free. There’s never a gesture, vocal quality, intention, or motivation from any character (with the exception of Meat Loaf's hormone challenged character Bob) that isn’t full-bore masculine.


If that means that more than a few tons of fury are coming along for the ride, so be it.

In Palahniuk’s cold satire, if you’re a consumer then you’re a pussy. The post-modern author presses you to see through the culture of housewife-behavior where free time is spent imagining and buying things to complete your vacuous identity.

A greater social repercussion from "Fight Club" would be a trend where American males ceased spending money and began hoarding every dime as if they were collecting names on a petition to embargo our snotty soul-crushing corporate run government.

However heavily "Fight Club" relies on extraneous voice-over narration from Norton's unreliable character, the grist of the story lies in his need to follow something. Even as it becomes glaringly clear over the course of the movie that he's pulling his own strings, rather than acting on the suggestions of Pitt’s rock-star-perfect persona, it’s the human inclination to be lead that troubles us. Chuck Palahniuk seems to be saying that males have such a strong urge to follow another person’s lead that it’s only through pain that a man can fully realize his own responsibility to himself and to the world around him. It’s a coming-of-age stratagem that fits perfectly within Fincher’s previous films and taps into films like "Taxi Driver," "The Graduate," and "A Clockwork Orange."


Like the insomniac Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver," Ed Norton gravitates to his true nature by exploring society in a heightened state of sleep-deprived accessibility. That Norton’s job as a car company recall analyst demands that he fly into different time zones in cities where he can buy all the same stuff, magnifies his disassociation to other people. Just when he’s finally is able to quell his insomnia by crying at support groups for people with terminal ailments, he becomes stalked by a woman named Marla (Bonham Carter). Marla shows up at every meeting he goes to, and her very presence mocks his ability to find refuge in fringe social enclaves. Jammed, embarrassed, and exasperated, Norton’s character makes a self-enabling breakthrough.


By becoming free of all of his worldly possessions, and donning the badges of physical abuse, he attains a sainthood status that he can’t help but abuse by encouraging males around him to join his cult of social terrorists. The performances, direction, and themes are thickly woven in scratchy narrative wool, and David Fincher never lets you forget what the social loom looks like. "Fight Club" is Fincher's cinematic Hail-Mary pass that the audience desperately wants to catch.

Rated R. 139 mins. (A) (Five Stars)

Click Here to Pledge Your Support Through Patreon


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos



Throwback Thursday

Podcast Series