Fight Club – A Re(tro)view

You did not navigate to some hacked webpage or time travel. I recently re-watched Fight Club for the first time in a few years, but this was my first time seeing it in all its chaotic glory on the big screen. At the risk of showing my “dumb millennial” age, I was frankly too young to see this the first go-round in theaters, and I’ve always been eager to see how this story told in that medium. And yeah, it was totally worth that overpriced ticket, I tell you! This is without a doubt one of my favorite movies to exist, so it didn’t surprise me to see that it held up completely, despite not having seen it in as many years.

First off, David Fincher, you creative bastard. In reviewing his now-extensive filmography, it’s hard to find any other film in his repertoire like Fight Club, but then again, none of his other films are adaptations of Chuck Palahniuk novels. And from my understanding, despite never having read Chuck’s novels, that man has an absolutely wild brain, which is certainly conveyed in this iconic picture. This is more of an argument for how perfect of a director choice Fincher was. From frame to frame; from the weird-ass techno-scored opening credits traversing the interior of our untrustworthy narrator, played by Edward Norton, to the flash of a random dong right before the end credits; Fincher proves his range in filmmaking (he proved his worth with 1995’s Se7en, let’s be real).

It’s difficult to imagine that this movie could’ve been made with a different cast. From Brad Pitt all the way down to Rachel Singer, who plays a terminal cancer patient just looking to get some before her last breath; the casting director, Laray Mayfield, has earned her keep. She became so quickly reliable for Fincher that she almost literally help cast every single one of his pictures since Fight Club. She basically gave us Rosamund Pike’s perfectly conniving performance as Amy in 2014’s Gone Girl! And that’s one of the rarest of occasions I give a specific shout-out to a casting director, but now I digress.

Edward Norton, better known as Edward Freakin’ Norton from 1996-1999 (his renaissance window), plays the nameless Narrator, just in case you didn’t know, and he does a hell of a job making himself relatable as a man who’s just yearning for some sleep and satisfaction, so much so that he creates utterly raw madness in the interim, and makes even the most innocent of viewer question their own sanity. I’m left asking myself, “what did *I* do when I was asleep? Was I really sleeping? Please say yes, brain.” And let’s not kid ourselves, everyone my age basically wanted to be a less-violent saner version of Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden after seeing this movie in our youth. We quoted him all the time, even if we didn’t know what the hell any of it meant. Now that I know what it means as a fully-functioning adult, I’m pretty sure I want to take those quotes back. I understand the position of anti-consumerism this film presents, but I think it’s obviously meant to tell the moviegoer to find a middle ground. Obviously, “don’t let the things you own, own you” is a perfectly fine and truthful quote to live by, but not to the extent of burning down everything around you at the command of your alternate personality. There I go, digressing again. All of this was meant to say, “hey, Brad Pitt was really great as Tyler Durden.” Thanks for making my brain scatter, Fight Club.

Another real shining star of this movie is Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer. Nowadays, we’re often tired of her predictable appearances in weird Tim Burton movies (they’re divorced now so it should be happening less, don’t worry), but after re-watching this movie with a mostly-matured mind, you can’t help but feel more like she’s stealing the show than Pitt is, although that could probably be the result of many re-watches since 1999. She’s got great clever lines, doesn’t give a crap in any sense of the word, and is tired of the Narrator’s shit. The question really becomes, why wouldn’t she be the one we identify with when we watch it now?

I’m trying to dance around The Twist™ which still hits me like a stack of bricks on my chest when I watch the movie, just because of how well that moment is directed, but we all know what the twist is. I’m not sure I even need to say it. We see this story and its twist retold in many other TV shows and movies nowadays, but not as well as it was in Fight Club. Still, the twist for me is one of the most memorable moments in cinema.

I could type a few more mountains of paragraphs about this movie, but I’ll restrain myself. If you’ve yet to see this movie at all, what are you even doing with your life? It’s such a great, zany, unique picture, even by today’s standards. If you haven’t re-watched it in, say, 5 years, definitely give it one! This movie still holds up, even against some of today’s best, and it’s one of the most perfect storms of directing, writing (primarily because of the source material), and casting.

Grade: A-

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