“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never really been in a fight?” Brad Pitt asks it of Edward Norton shortly after they meet, and people (particularly men) have been asking each other the question ever since David Fincher’s 1999 anarchic masterpiece was released. Based on the equally (and oddly quite wise) novel by Chuck Palahniuk. Fincher’s film is a unique and insightful look at the societal neutering of the American male. I’m going to write this from the standpoint of one…since that’s what I happen to be. Men are hard-wired for aggression. We want to punch stuff. We like to see things blow up, destroyed, and laid low. We’re hunter-gatherers at our core. Now we spend 40 hours a week in a sea of grey cubicles, and our weekends at Bed, Bath & Beyond. There’s something missing. We’re missing a key part of ourselves and it manifests in bottles of whiskey and Prozac. We don’t know ourselves, because most of us haven’t been in a fight. That’s why Fight Club (which didn’t do well in theaters) became a cult sensation. It touched a nerve with men. It was a revelation.
“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on 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.”
Fight Club is one of the most quotable movies (and books) of all-time. Fincher proved Aliens 3 was not his fault by deft direction, boldly using Edward Norton’s narration to guide us through his journey, subliminally leading us to the movie’s key twist, and using graphics and text to visually stimulate the viewer. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter are magnificent. The film has held up brilliantly in the near 20 years since its release, and remains as incendiary, challenging and sparked fight clubs across the nation….but I can’t tell you if I was in one or even if one existed that I know about.
This is the most iconic scene from the film and Brad Pitt grabs the camera by the throat and bellows the standards by which Fight Club will by run. Fincher cuts back and forth between the rule reading by Pitt with shots of average guys taking off wedding rings, slipping out of loafers, and slowly measuring each other. Then the middle children of history discover a side of themselves they never knew existed. Fight Club is also a very darkly comic film. I love that Edward Norton’s office slowly becomes filled with men in business formal who have clearly had the snot kicked out of them recently and no one comments on it. They can’t. It’s the first two rules, after all.