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Ode to Fight Club

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A Chaotic Ramble about the 1999 Film


All you really need to know about the movie “Fight Club” (1999) is that the nameless narrator, played by Edward Norton, has a penguin as his “power” animal.



That’s when you understand that you’re in uncharted territory.



“Fight Club” (1999) nears movie making perfection until the last 15 minutes when it veers off course and smashes into a brick wall of chaos. For all intents and purposes the last 15 minutes is a parody of the beginning and middle – a Keystone Kops version that features Norton scrambling around in his boxer shorts like some deranged circus clown.



It’s ludicrous.



But until that breaking point – the turning point happens when Meat Loaf is shot and the members of Project Mayhem begin to chant “His name is Robert Paulson” – the movie is a gritty, subversive portrayal of a disenchanted yuppie’s descent into madness. Or it might be about the cultural castration of the modern male. Or it could be about the seductive attraction of fascism in a valueless society. Or perhaps it’s a satire about our advertising-driven and consumer-mad culture.

Then again it might not be about anything.



“I love this idea that you can have fascism without offering any direction or solution. Isn't the point of fascism to say, 'This is the way we should be going'? But this movie couldn't be further from offering any kind of solution,” Director David Fincher told Empire magazine.



I like to believe it’s about all of the above – but in a skimming the surface kind of way. “Fight Club” is the shallow end of the pool, but in a good way. It’s all wry observation and ironic snipe – offering its audience a black, tangled comedy, but nothing in the way of a philosophy or an answer.



That’s why “Fight Club” gives audiences some of the best throwaway lines of the last two decades:


  • “We're consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don't concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy's name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.”
  • “It's just, when you buy furniture, you tell yourself, that's it. That's the last sofa I'm gonna need. Whatever else happens, I've got that sofa problem handled.”
  • “I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of... wherever.”

“Fight Club” is the rare movie that becomes better after multiple viewings. The reason is that once the surprise ending is revealed – that Norton and Brad Pitt are actually the same person – you can watch the movie over and over again searching for the telltale clues of the madness Norton is experiencing. It’s a dizzying experience (especially if you watch it on DVD). Flincher carefully constructs the narrative to drop subtle clues to Norton’s condition:


  • The movie opens with an animated sequence through brain synapses and the narrator saying: “People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden.” They’re asking him because he is Tyler.
  • When describing the bombs rigged to blow up the financial center in downtown New York, the narrator says: “I know this because Tyler know this.” They share the same brain.
  • In the DVD, we begin to see flickers of Tyler Durden – just flashes of Pitt decked out in red leather jacket and sunglasses, wearing a wicked grin. It’s the narrator’s mind beginning to form his delusion.
  • The first time Tyler becomes a “real” person is in an airport sequence when the narrator passes him on one of the people movers. Tyler is wearing a white suit and a bright yellow shirt. Such an innocent scene – yet mind blowing at the same time.
  • In the scene in his boss’s office, when the narrator beats himself up, he thinks: “For some reason, I thought of my first fight with Tyler.” In fact, his first fight with “Tyler” was his first fight with himself.

Strangely enough, the center of “Fight Club” is Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer. On the surface, the movie is about the relationship between Norton and Pitt, but it’s Carter’s character that is the catalyst for the action. One can argue that Marla Singer is the model that Tyler Durden is created from.



The similarities are striking.



Both Marla and Tyler live on the outskirts of society. They are counter-culture and have rebelled against the mainstream. The first time the narrator meets Marla, she steals clothes from a Laundromat and sells them at second-hand store. The first time Tyler materializes into a “physical form” at the airport, he steals a sports car.



Marla is Tyler – or at least the masculine version of her.



There’s no doubt that “Fight Club” struck a nerve and has become a bona fide cult hit. And for the first hour and 48 minutes the movie is about as cuts to the bone with its wit, humor and scathing social commentary. It’s that last 15 minutes though that comes close to nearly blowing the whole spectacle up: kind of like Tyler Durden himself.

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“Fight Club” is the rare movie that becomes better after multiple viewings. The reason is that once the surprise ending is revealed – that Norton and Brad Pitt are actually the same person – you can watch the movie over and over again searching for the telltale clues of the madness Norton is experiencing.
I didn't know that was the reason. I thought it had something to do with badass, built, hot stuff Brad Pitt... but that's just me.



I didn't know that was the reason. I thought it had something to do with badass, built, hot stuff Brad Pitt... but that's just me.
for me its Meat Loaf's manboobies!

but on the real (if I can just once, sound like Im from the hood)...its one of my favourites of all time, and deserves all the praise it gets (like being atop of MoFo's Top 100 List!)
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Horrorphiliac



There are too many aspects of the film to mention that make it one of my favourites.



I dunno, I find something fairly smarmy, contradictory and frankly inarticulate about anything that tells me to opt out of the consumer culture by buying bestselling novels, movie tickets and DVD's...

In other news, Edward Norton is one of the most vastly overrated actors of his generation.



NOT ACTUALLY BANNED
I dunno, I find something fairly smarmy, contradictory and frankly inarticulate about anything that tells me to opt out of the consumer culture by buying bestselling novels, movie tickets and DVD's...

In other news, Edward Norton is one of the most vastly overrated actors of his generation.
Leave my presence before I lose my patience.

Edward Norton is excellent. I know it's "cool" to call anyone on or near the top "Overrated" but come on...Norton is brilliant.




Edward Norton is excellent. ...Norton is brilliant.
I agree, it will only get better as he gets older...at least IMO.
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“The gladdest moment in human life, methinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton



Leave my presence before I lose my patience.

Edward Norton is excellent. I know it's "cool" to call anyone on or near the top "Overrated" but come on...Norton is brilliant.
Norton plays the same character in every film. He's got exactly two permutations of behavior: cool detachment and beating someone up.

BOOOOORRRRRIIIIIIIING!



Norton plays the same character in every film. He's got exactly two permutations of behavior: cool detachment and beating someone up.

BOOOOORRRRRIIIIIIIING!
Such a generic derogatory statement leads me to think you're just looking to fire people up and not really expressing an honest opinion. (not saying your statement is true) but so what if he does have only two permutations of behaviour? Doesn't he play those roles well? And how do those to behaviours become boring when the characters they are applied to are completely diverse?
If you're going to critique his performance why not state something specific like his emotions while playing a character or something? I would say he's a brilliant actor when it comes to specifics.

Can you give us an example of an actor that is not overrated and you like?



Hello Salem, my name's Winifred. What's yours
Marla is Tyler – or at least the masculine version of her.[/font]
Marla isnt tyler in female form. She is inaction, reaction and victim. Tyler is a catalystic character - he is the bomb if you like. He is determined, radical and instinctual.

Marla is much more the narrator and thats what scares him, he cant face being with her because it means he will have to face up to all his own problems. 'Her lie reflected my lie.'
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NOT ACTUALLY BANNED
Norton plays the same character in every film. He's got exactly two permutations of behavior: cool detachment and beating someone up.

BOOOOORRRRRIIIIIIIING!
You don't think he has flexibility?

- Played a mentally slow teen with split-personalities in Primal Fear

- He played a snake of a card player in Rounders

- He played an ultra violent skinhead in American History X

- He played a reserved investigator in Red Dragon

- He played a regret filled drug dealer heading to prison in 25th Hour

- He played a heart broken magician in The Illusionist

- He played a goody-two shoes children's television star in Death to Smoochy

- He played a leper king in a role consensusly raved in Kingdom of Heaven

Do you just not watch Norton? All of those roles are different.



The roles are different - but the acting he brings to them is not. Detachment or violence, that's pretty much the entire range of emotion he projects. In a sense, he's like another one trick pony who has coasted along for years on the cool cachet of a career making role, Sam Jackson.



OK so I watched the illusionist and I have to say its not one of Norton's best performances. Well the acting itself wasn't bad its just that to me his accent seemed a bit inconsistent. Was he supposed to have some sought of english accent or a bit of a foreign english accent? I'm still not sure what it was.



I am Jack's complete lack of surprise!

FIGHT CLUB has coined so many awesome quotes, I would almost have to re-tell the entire film to capture the essence of it.

Guess that's what makes it so great!

Gotta love the FINCH.



You don't think he has flexibility?

- Played a mentally slow teen with split-personalities in Primal Fear

- He played a snake of a card player in Rounders

- He played an ultra violent skinhead in American History X

- He played a reserved investigator in Red Dragon

- He played a regret filled drug dealer heading to prison in 25th Hour

- He played a heart broken magician in The Illusionist

- He played a goody-two shoes children's television star in Death to Smoochy

- He played a leper king in a role consensusly raved in Kingdom of Heaven

Do you just not watch Norton? All of those roles are different.
Good post. Anyone who can't appreciate or recognize Norton's talent just isn't paying attention -- or is trying to stir the pot.



The roles are different - but the acting he brings to them is not. Detachment or violence, that's pretty much the entire range of emotion he projects. In a sense, he's like another one trick pony who has coasted along for years on the cool cachet of a career making role, Sam Jackson.
I have to say i agree with Norton being extremely over rated, though i can't articulate my distaste for him. I like the films he's in but i find him to smarmy, never really seems to have much depth.
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[*]“We're consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don't concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy's name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.”
I love this line maybe because I can see bits of me in it
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I love this line maybe because I can see bits of me in it
You take Viagra? Is there something about you I don't know?