"Women, who have had a lifetime of practice at dealing with little-boy posturing, will instinctively see through it; men may get off on the testosterone rush.."
Machismo is the downfall to most of modern society. Masculinity is such a thin concept that it is often found in the strangest of places. Testosterone is a major player in this game, and it often causes lackluster messages to come off as incredibly masculine or tough. I am a firm believer that a good film should make you feel something. David Fincher's Fight Club is a film that makes the audience feel. My problem does not sit in the fact that the film is poorly made. In fact, it is very well made. My problem sits with what the film makes an audience feel. Fight Club is one of the most irresponsible films ever released.
Released just months after the disasters at Woodstock '99, Fight Club is a film that unabashedly takes advantage of the rising levels of testosterone in young American boys. It is a film that depicts extreme violence as not only cool, but also as a measure of a person's manhood. We know that, in real life, people are very breakable, but Fight Club is shot in such a uniquely stylized way that it turns violence into some kind of horrible game. It creates a world where real life characters are maimed and hurt in a way that we usually reserve for our comic books and video games. When this violence is meant to resemble real life - we enter a world that we have no business inhabiting. This is what makes the film so dangerous.
Before we explore this idea any further, it is important that I acknowledge the working aspects of Fight Club. Fincher is a director that legitimately tries to make art with his pictures. His works usually feature unique and difficult shooting styles and techniques. In this film, he uses quick, frantic edits to force a viewer onto the top of their head. Fight Club makes you dizzy. But not in a vomit-inducing way. It keeps spinning and blurring so quickly and repetitively that when it finally stops you are forced to sit back and cherish the peacefulness. Neat in concept, but not in practice.
Like most of Fincher's other works, this is a film that takes heavy advantage of color schemes and costume design. The browns and blacks that make up the set force a viewer into an underworld of discomfort and backwards morals. I hate the way that Fight Club makes me feel, but that is a win for David Fincher.
The film stars Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in, arguably, their most famous roles. In a nutshell, Fight Club is about a depressed everydayer and a demented soap salesman who start an underground organization that serves as a place to vent male aggression. And now we are back to the problem with this movie.
Pitt's Tyler Durden character is one of the least dimensional characters I have ever seen in a movie. As we later find out, he is a living embodiment of our violent boyhood fantasies. A sadist of sorts, Durden is the anti-ethos to anything that we should want in our hero. Unlike other violent films, this one does not have anything greater to say. Its fascist undertones are lost in the screenplay's inability to have Durden tell us something meaningful. I doubt that Fincher wanted us to like the character, but I find him to be on par with the stereotypical, violent, idiotic fraternity boy that we see on network television. His faux- intellectualism does nothing but give a viewer license to drink, smoke, curse and screw. Not to mention, fight.
This is proven by the number of actual "fight clubs" that were sprouting up all over the country after the film was released. Young boys, usually of high school or junior high age, were taking the film as seriously as it wanted to be taken. This led to numerous unwilling participants getting beaten for the sake of "fun." Not only this, but these same "fight clubbers" were posting their fights on the internet because they saw themselves as entertainers. We as consumers do not like to admit that movies have the influential powers to make us do stupid things, but the evidence is there. This is irresponsible film making.
"The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!" If this is the case, then the third rule should be: you DO NOT let your children watch Fight Club. And the final rule should be: you DO NOT make another movie like Fight Club. This is a film that deserves every letter of its R rating. It swims in the slums of your adolescent machismo.
Fight Club: D+
My Next Film....Flaming Creatures (Smith. 1963)