Hi Keebah, movie lovers.
Are you a person of the male gender?
Do you feel trapped in your job? Disrespected by your kids? Sexually frustrated with your wife/girlfriend/live-in/partner/cuddlemate?
Are you fed-up with being blamed for everything from war to global warming to feckless capitalism to Ryan Seacrest and modern art?
Has life become so stressful and overwhelming that you feel like you're about to explode...or punch the first parking meter you see?
If so, join the club.
Or, rather, join "Fight Club".
Released in 1999, "Fight Club"(based on Chuck Palahniuk's cult/pulp novel of the same name) was initally met with mixed reviews and dismal box office. Twenty three years later, however, this Brad Pitt/Edward Norton cage match has since been deemed a "cult classic" and reviewers have reappraised its cinematic merits.
My question? Does "Fight Club" deserve to be called a cult classic?
Let's ponder the issue, shall we kiddies?
"Fight Shlub": Edward Norton as the put-upon Narrator/Jack.
Our feature presentation begins by introducing us to an unnamed Narrator (who is called Jack from time to time), played by Edward Norton. A well-paid corporate drone, Narrator and/or Jack is single, depressed, unhappy at work, has a dink for a boss and suffers from crippling insomnia. Unable to get any medical help for his condition (or any sympathy, for that matter), Narrator/Jack attends various 12-step support groups as a "tourist" (a fake patient) so he can find a little compassion and feel free to cry.
While attending these groups, Narrator/Jack meets up with Marla (Helena Bonham-Carter), a poor, Goth girl who feels "dead inside" and attends support groups for the same reason he does. She calls out Norton for being just as big a fake as she is, so the two decide to "split" the groups they visit to avoid being discovered.
On a business trip, Narrator/Jack meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a trash-talking, chain-smoking, beer-swilling, in-your-face nonconformist who dresses like a pimp. Tyler slices porn scenes into family movies at the theater where he works and urinates in the soup at the fancy restaurant where he waits tables. His home is a rotting, stinking, crumbling house. He's Narrator/Jack's total opposite! Yet they bond over beers and when Narrator/Jack's meticulously IKEA decorated condo explodes, Tyler lets him bunk with him. He does ask one favor, though: "Hit me in the face as hard as you can."
Narrator/Jack reluctantly complies. One blow leads to another and, seconds later, Tyler and Narrator/Jack are punching each others' lights out. Crazy as it seems, Narrator/Jack finds these fist fights liberating--and he's not the only one: the city is apparently crawling with men who find bare knuckle brawling a welcome release from the grind of their daily lives. Soon enough, Tyler has organized an underground "fight club" that's the hottest draw in town.
"The first rule of Fight Club", Tyler announces, "Is you DO NOT talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! The third rule of Fight Club: someone yells 'stop', goes limp, taps out, the fight is over."
"Fight Grub": Narrator/Jack eats something other than fist.
But that's just the beginning. After (literally) tasting blood, Tyler morphs Fight Club into Project Mayhem: a secret, paramilitary group that bombs consumer giants, public art displays...and chi chi coffee spots. When Project Mayhem member Bob (the late Meat Loaf) is killed during one of these raids, Narrator/Jack is horrified; he'd met Bob at a support group for testicular cancer survivors and the two had become friends. The other Mayhemers, however, just shrug their shoulders and continue making bombs. This causes Narrator/Jack to freak out and have a much needed moment of clarity. Or, to put it another way, Narrator/Jack suddenly realizes that Tyler and his band of merry Fascist pranksters are dangerously off their collective dots and must be stopped.
Unfortunately, Narrator/Jack has also come to learn that their secret Fight Club is not so secret; Tyler has been setting up fight clubs all around the country, indoctrinating its members with his wacky screeds on capitalism, technology and manliness.
Oh, and one more thing: while retracing Tyler's steps and following his paper trail (via airline receipts), Narrator/Jack is STUNNED! SHOCKED! and HORRIFIED! to learn that HE is Tyler Durden! At some point, Narrator/Jack must have suffered a psychotic break (or an extreme trauma) that caused him to splinter into two, distinct personalities--like Tommy Lee Jones in "The Eyes of Laura Mars" (read my review of "The Eyes of Laura Mars" if this is confusing to you) and various soap opera characters.
Unfortunately, Narrator/Jack's attempts to stop Project Mayhem from destroying various credit card companies doesn't quite pan out. However, he does succeed in ridding himself of Tyler by shooting himself in the face (!?) which causes his Tyler personality to die or evaporate, I'm not quite sure which.
"Fight Club" ends with Narrator/Jack and Marla holding hands, watching helplessly as buildings explode and collapse around them. Will Narrator/Jack turn himself in? Stop future violence? Get the professional help he needs? Or has Tyler and Project Mayhem become so entrenched in the fabric of our nation they can't be stopped? The film doesn't tell us, but my impression is the worst is yet to come.