#10: Fight Club (1999)

When and how did I watch this?

June 6th, 2017, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Enough to understand the hype.  You “don’t talk about Fight Club.”  It’s Brad Pitt and Edward Norton and some strange underground workings.  I remember the relentless commercials on MTV featuring quick cut scenes, shouting, and that slow motion Helena Bonham Carter smoke waft thing. Otherwise, very little.

What do I know about it now?

What a head-spinning movie in so many ways.  The editing and coloring got my attention first, tinted with a dingy hue (which persists for its entirety) and the fantastic transitions. Then it was Norton’s performance, particularly the narration and dialogue with those around him, truly the highlight of the film. Goodfellas used the same technique with comparable results.  We’re then introduced to Tyler Durden (Pitt) not far into the film, who is basically Rusty from Ocean’s Eleven and Mickey from Snatch if they had a kid. He’s smart, but unstable. And there defines the remainder of the film.  The screenplay desires to be intelligent, using several clever symbols and an asserted countercultural stance against consumerism — which, in itself, works — but then digresses into instability. Sure, you can lean on the unreliability of the narrator and the chaotic aspect of his endeavors, but the movie leans even harder on the violence, sex, and profanity to shock the viewer into being pseudo entertained.  The swirling nature of the film causes a loss of focus — the point is gone: the viewer is consuming everything the characters rail against.  Bonham Carter, while vulgar in nature, is an enticing character, and the aforementioned Norton is fantastic, but everyone else is uninteresting. The “twist” in the end is akin to the great cheap cop-outs in storywriting: “It was all just a dream,” or “And then the whole world blew up.” Ironically, both are kind of happening at its conclusion.

What are some themes in the film?

Consumerism, fear, violence, complacency, MPD

Did this affect me personally?

Negatively, in some ways — there some moments I can’t unsee/unhear.  “His name was Robert Paulson” was an interesting moment in the film, but it was at that point where the film could’ve recovered and didn’t.

Why is this ranked #10?

This is a definitive cult classic and a dude movie to a high level. The Pitt/Norton/Carter combo provides a lot of mystique. The resonating movie quote — “You don’t talk about Fight Club,” is one of those lines that makes people vote 10 stars even if they’ve never seen the film. Ignoring the actual screenplay, the anti-consumerism message is noble, and at least upheld in the early part of the film.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She was engaged early on, but was gradually turned off and eventually ignored it and moved on to something else right there on the couch.

Would I watch it again?

No.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Several of my friends have seen this and believe it’s a great.  And that’s fine.  I’ll preach otherwise.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

The level of skill employed in the cinematography and Edward Norton’s performance (narration and on-screen acting combined) alone make this film worthy of greatness.  Its ranking is grossly inflated, however.  The film wants to be redeeming, but stumbles in the end, and hopes that the moment of catharsis and victory over the self might save it, but it’s already too far gone.  It feels like the protagonist forgot what he was doing, and we likewise forget why we’re sitting there watching it all. I don’t recommend talking about Fight Club, either.

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