Most dramas tend to center around philosophical discussion about life and what it means to be human, and feature characters displaying emotional depth. Good dramas are great, but generally don’t appeal much to masculine viewers who revel in violence and explosions. Yet all of that is present in David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999); it’s a drama for men.
Edward Norton stars as a depressed insomniac (named in the credits only as “Narrator”) who is just another cog in the world of big business. He hates his job and receives no sense of accomplishment from it. He tries to find fulfillment in creating the “perfect” apartment. His doctor refuses to give him medication for depression or insomnia, and the Narrator seeks out support group meetings for conditions that he doesn’t have. Here he is able to find a level of emotional release that allows him to sleep and function normally. One day on a business trip he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a charming but rebellious soul who sells soap. Tyler puts no stock in the materialistic world, and believes that one can learn a great deal through pain, misfortune, and chaos. Later, Tyler challenges the Narrator to a fist fight and the Narrator finds that the the bare-knuckle brawling makes him feel more alive than he has in years. This ultimately leads to the two becoming friends and roommates who engage in informal fights once a week. More men join in the “fight club” and it becomes an underground sensation and a closely guarded secret among the participants. As the Narrator and Tyler bond through violence, things become strange when Tyler becomes involved with Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) whom the Narrator met in the support groups and developed a love-hate relationship. Things get even stranger as the Narrator sees Tyler’s anti-establishment views become more and more extreme, eventually leading to vandalism and worse.
The premise in Fight Club is compelling. When we feel lost and dissatisfied with our job, the world, and the system society has set up, we feel dead inside. The idea of violence leading to personal fulfillment is unconventional, but interesting. The violence in the fight club doesn’t serve to promote or glorify physical combat, but for the participant to experience feeling in a society where they are otherwise numb. The fighting between these men strips away their fear of pain and their reliance on material signifiers of self-worth. Fight Club almost makes you want to get in a good fist fight so you can feel better about the world and your place in it.
Making a broad generalization about sex scenes in movies, they are typically included to develop the characters and a connection they are forming. There are plenty of scenes in Fight Club that achieve this sort of development between the characters; raw, naked emotions being exchanged, and connections and relationship are forming between men. But it’s done through brawl fighting, not sex. These fights are achieving the same thing that sex scenes normally achieve, but in a much more “masculine” way of bonding and showing emotion. Once again, it’s a drama for men.
Tyler Durden is such a unique character. He bucks the system, he has atypical values, and extremely different methods of finding enlightenment. He’s also a dangerous maniac whom you would dread to meet in real life. In one scene Tyler has a convenience store worker on his knees at gun point. After going through the man’s wallet and finding an expired college ID, Tyler asks what the man was attending college for and what he had dreamed of doing. Once Tyler gets an answer, he commands the man to go home, and threatens to kill the man in six weeks if he has not doing everything in his power to work towards his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Once the man is gone, Tyler says to the Narrator “Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.” Tyler is sort of a likeable psychopath, along the same vein as the character Rorschach in Watchmen (2009).
Fight Club is a good movie with complex and interesting characters, some thought-provoking ideas, and some philosophical concepts dropped in unpredictable ways. As you may have guessed, there’s quite a bit of violence in this movie. There’s also some language and sex scenes (though not between men, as this review may have been unintentionally insinuated). It’s a drama for men; most women viewers probably wouldn’t enjoying it, and it’s too graphic for younger viewers. It’s still good and if you aren’t too put off by this kind of material, it worth seeing twice.
Can you think of another “manly” drama like Fight Club? What was it and what did you think about it? Comment below and tell me why.