Pitt and Norton fight for right to emote
By GUNDER KEHOE
Scene Movie Critic
Question: What do you get when you mix nitroglycerin with sodium nitrate and add a pinch of sawdust?
Then stir in the dark vision of director David Fincher ("Seven"), add Edward Norton and Brad Pitt and what you get is "Fight Club," the cinematic equivalent of TNT.
"Fight Club" might be the darkest, most depressing movie you'll ever see. But it's also an explosive masterpiece. Based on the subversive novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the movie takes everything audiences are supposed to believe and boldly states the opposite. It's about modern man being emasculated by consumer society, devoting his life to products he doesn't need and goals he'll never achieve. He needs an outlet and "Fight Club" is the satirical society where extreme violence is the only means of restoration.
Edward Norton plays Jack, a man so numb he's lost every ounce of feeling in his body. Insomnia leaves Jack plodding zombie-like through his daily routine while consumerism has him concerned with what kind of dining set defines him as a person.
His search for emotion finally gives way to tears at a cancer support group where crying in the breasts of a fat man, Bob (Meat-Loaf), signals a revelatory experience: Only when Jack pretends he's on the verge of death and loses all hope can he feel emotion. There goes Jack, assuming phony identities to attend meetings of the terminally ill for a quick fix of feeling. His cure doesn't last long when along comes Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), who ruins everything.
Marla, the pale, smoke-breathing "tourist" is like Jack, faking her disease to lose all hope. Jack, however, cannot cry with another faker like Marla in his midst, so he graduates to rougher solutions.
On a business flight, Jack is seated next to soap-making anarchist, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Durden is everything Jack isn't and everything he wants to become. Tyler is anti-establishment, Tyler can make bombs, and best of all, Tyler has devised Fight Club, a place where feminized men like Jack meet their cure.
It's a secret society where they can shed their shirts and shoes, beat each other senseless and finally feel like men.
There's brutal violence in Fight Club, and the audience winces at every punch. The participants' cheeks and noses aren't caved in for the thrill of destruction, but rather to show how far these men will go for an inkling of emotion. For the members of Fight Club, pain is better than no feeling at all.
Tyler escalates his club into Project Mayhem, an organized onslaught against all objects that shouldn't matter in life: computers, corporate art, Volkswagen Beatles. Tyler's final apocalyptic vision is to bomb the high-rise buildings that house credit-card companies. It all plays into his master plan of chaos and reducing everything to nothing. Even Jack thinks Tyler has gone too far with his commitment to losing all hope. Tyler and Jack brawl it out, and by the end, Jack is sucking on a pistol barrel with a front-row seat to mass destruction.
Pitt has tossed the fluff aside and found a role that suits him perfectly. This is his best performance to date and his quirky nuances will keep anyone chuckling. Everyone calls Norton the best actor of his generation, and "Fight Club" does everything to support this claim. Norton is the perfect sleepless drone to admire Pitt. Together, the two personalities pack quite a punch. Bonham Carter is grim and sexy while Meat Loaf is convincingly emotional and pathetically funny.
"Fight Club" is complicated material and Fincher knows it inside and out. Every frame and each spoken line reads with subtext that plays to the film's secret, twisted reality. Fincher employs a world of techniques to tell his story with stunning effect. He balances bleak humor, multiple themes, flashbacks, hallucinations, to say nothing of his visual wizardry. One minute, the camera is swimming through Jack's brain tissue, and the next, it's lurking in a wastebasket filled with Krispy Creme garbage.
The movie demands a lot from its viewers and when the film ends, each viewer is left in a daze of ideas. But it's only moments until this daze crystallizes and forces the viewer to realize "Fight Club" is genius. Fincher serves up a platter of rebellion in a darkly comedic and energetic movie. See it once, see it twice, see it as many times as possible." Fight Club" only gets better.
All Scene Stories for Thursday, October 28, 1999