Welcome to PAN & SCAN where you will find film reviews of some of Hollywood's latest productions.
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Starring: Brad Pitt & Edward Norton
Running Time: 139 Minutes
Rating: R for disturbing and graphic depiction of
Video Release: 25 April 2000
Tagline: "Mischief. Mayhem. Soap."
Director David Fincher explores a concept in Fight Club. A concept that consumerist males have been neutered by their modern lifestyles and forgotten how to be men. Instead of examining this premise with a tear-jerking narrative on male bonding, he directs with a non-linear stream of consciousness -- keeping away from conventional storytelling. He explores the de-structuring of his Narrator's reality with a stylized frenzy of effects that only reinforces this anarchistic message.
The film's Narrator (Edward Norton) is an insignificant cog in the corporate machine who dutifully goes about his job without question. (Recall Hankís role from Joe Versus the Volcano.) But this character is no volcano. He is an insomniac slave to his IKEA possessions and can only find a sense of peace (and sleep) by joining multiple self-help groups that deal with terminal diseases. His "therapy" is interrupted when a trashy gutter bimbo, Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), enters his life and upsets this routine. He begins suffering from insomnia once again until an unexpected rendezvous with a charismatic soap salesman, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), clarifies things for him.
Tyler is flamboyant - reckless - uninhibited. He lives in an abandoned mansion in a deserted area of town and repels the comforts of modern living. He is everything our Narrator is not. While our Narrator sits at airports waiting for his detained bag, Tyler hops into his cool convertible and jets off. Whereas our Narrator grudgingly obeys orders from his boss, Tyler takes his jobs with a rebellious attitude. While our Narrator buries his feelings for Marla, Tyler makes her squeal with sexual delight. If everyone has an evil other side, Tyler is our Narratorís Mr. Hyde.
What begins as the standard male bonding sequence, Tyler then asks the Narrator to hit him. What would seem to be just a friendly release of testosterone, the pounding on one another releases a sense of satisfaction. The physical contact of fighting awakens them, making them feel "alive." As time progresses, others join in on this spectacle and soon "Fight Club" becomes an underground sensation. It grows in size (despite the top two rules of "no talking about F.C.") and becomes a nation wide phenomena. Our Narrator and Tyler begin taking "students" into their home and soon an army of misfits is inaugurated who then go about wreaking havoc all over corporate America. When our Narrator discovers Tylerís master plan, he attempts to defuse it, but a self-realization comes a little too late.
To explain that last sentence would ruin one of the filmís more outstanding twists. Whatís important in this film is the message that Fincher is attempting to convey. While he uses unorthodox filmmaking and a non cohesive approach in telling his tale, the bottom line is man is a social beast constrained by a set of laws and morals. Without society, he is a dangerous animal (to himself and others) and by releasing his inner beast - just slightly - the devil is set free.
Fight Club enlightens us to the sorry state of affairs that while we might live in a free society, we are hardly free of the corporate consumerism that enslaves us every waking moment of our lives. Yes, some of the violence is harsh -- similar to Kubrickís A Clockwork Orange -- and critics were quick to bash this film for its violent content. But Fincher shows us that personal violence only leads to greater destruction and isn't using mindless brutality just to keep his audience awake.
No doubt, this "action" will draw in the younger viewer who has grown up (enslaved by corporate filmmaking?) with violent images. It will also attract an ample supply of females, thanks to the shirtless Pitt effect (another powerful key used by the film to "sell" itís product?). But, looking beyond the surface violence and eye-candy, it is those who experience the "Work-Dinner-TV-Sleep" mediocrity of middle-aged existence that will relate best to this film. They are the "What If's." "What if I married the prom queen instead?" "What if I didnít drop out of college?" "What if I didnít have all these kids, mortgage, in-laws, etc...?"
Fight Club is indeed a visually violent and edgy film. It takes place in the deepest, debauched parts of modern (I use the term loosely) manís psyche. This movie may not be for the kiddies. It may not be for the members of the Pitt Fan Club either. Itís certainly NOT for the bloated film critic who sits at the corporate newspaper handing down opinion only to be careful watched (edited?) by the all mighty media machine. No, this film is for all the "nine-to-fiveírs" out there. This is your movie. Give it a "4."
© Terrence J. Brady
The ratings for "Pan & Scan" are broken down into a simple 1-5 scale as follows: 5 = "Forget renting it - BUY IT!"; 4 = "Definite Must Rent"; 3 = "Coin Toss" (Rent it OR wait for cable); 2 = "Wait For Cable"; 1 = "Ignore It!" (Even when it's on network TV).