Down With The Yuppies: “Fight Club” (1999)

18 years ago, the film adaptation of the 1996 novel “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk was released, starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter, and directed by David Fincher. The film opened to mixed reviews and grossed modest earnings at the box office, but just like a New York Times best-selling self-help book, the discrete home viewer purchases are what punted this film into popularity. It seems people were more comfortable viewing this boundary-pushing film behind closed doors after video release, and who could blame them? If you are an Ikea-loving yuppie who secretly fantasizes about obliterating this consumer-saturated kingdom whose only ruler is the mighty dollar, behind closed doors is the way to go (HA!).

Edward Norton plays the anonymous narrator, sometimes referred to as ‘Jack,’ who suffers from insomnia and is desperate for a reprieve. After a visit to an exasperated doctor, no doubt driven to distraction by an endless parade of hypochondriacs and drug addicts, our narrator is prescribed a visit to a local support group for men with testicular cancer in hopes he can gain some perspective on his problem and “see what real suffering looks like.” At this point, you see the movie really take off to its soaring heights. The narrator becomes infatuated with the uninhibited desperation of people who have nothing left to lose but their lives. He finds comfort in the undivided attention of people who value the company of fellow sufferers, and proceeds to invade countless other disease-ridden support groups throughout the city; it becomes his own personal brand of sleep aid, as he blissfully retreats into slumber after his meetings. That is until Marla Singer appears.

Bonham-Carter plays Marla, the narrator’s love interest (if you would call it that,) and things are complicated between them, to say the least. She hilariously shows up at the testicular cancer support group, making her entrance by marching in and asking, “This is cancer, right?” She then lights up a cigarette and smokes her way through the meeting. Our narrator is instantly infuriated at her presence, calling her a tourist, and his sleeplessness immediately returns. After a confrontation in which she completely obliterates his manhood, they come to an agreement to split the groups, each attending on different nights than the other, and they exchange numbers- the beginning of a beautiful relationship. (HA!)

As Tyler Durden inserts himself into our Narrator’s life, something changes- we see him start to embrace a philosophy of “life sucks, and we need to do something to remember we are alive.” The triangle between the narrator, Marla, and Tyler Durden becomes increasingly tension-filled, especially as Marla begins to sense there is something wrong with the narrator.

Now, I’m going to stop with the summary portion of this review. I’m sure you are all aware that there is a fight club, and that you never talk about it. So that is all I have to say about that.

What I would like to point out is that this movie is an absolute timeless classic. It is just as relevant today as it was in 1999 (or 1996 if you read the novel), and it sparks a fire in me when I watch it. Maybe I am secretly an anarchist at heart, but I think there is something for everyone in this movie, even if you don’t want to admit it. What is better than raw, injured masculinity with a steaming hot side of non-traditional female malfunction. It’s a modern way to remind us of our mortality, the fleeting possibility of success in today’s world, and our primal need to fight against the current.

In a time where everyone is obsessed with who has what and how much, this film shows the other side of that coin- what happens when you have all the stuff but still feel like you are missing a key component to a happy life? Most people answer that question with more alcohol, more drugs, and more stuff.  Now, for the record, I am not a proponent of going off the grid and taking the world with me, but I am beginning to realize as I approach my thirties that most people are just as lost as I am- only their makeup is better than mine.

My favorite quality about this movie is how the camera captures the characters: Stripped down- only blood and skin and smoke highlighting their actions and emotions. It is darkly refreshing, like bathing in oil but stepping out of the tub completely clean.

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