03 June 2009

I am Jack's Irritating Adolescent Self-Absorption

Up until last Sunday, I'd somehow managed to spend every second of the ten years since its original release not watching Fight Club.

This was, as it turns out, the right decision.

After all the praise I'd heard, I couldn't believe what a pile of faux-radical, pseudo-intellectual drivel it was. To be sure it's well made and well acted and the like -- and I did enjoy the animated Ikea catalogue sequence -- but almost everything about the story itself rubbed me up the wrong way.

[SPOILERS follow, just in case someone's reading who's somehow also managed to preserve their Fight Club virginity yet also cares.]

The intellectual elitism of enlightened Tyler Durden saving the humble working man from his ignorant drudgery was so extreme as to border on the gnostic, while the film's message remained astonishingly dumb. As for the meretriciousness of multi-billionaire Brad Pitt informing us in a film funded by Rupert Murdoch's multinational Fox corporation that -- astonishingly -- people are not defined by their material possessions, while the media control what we see and hear... well, I think you can guess my likely reaction. (Plus did you know soap was made from, like, fat? Eww, gross, dude!)

I also object profoundly to the idea that men have been emasculated by society and can only reclaim their manhood by beating the hell out of one another and blowing stuff up. (Although I admit to having rather less of a problem with the shagging Helena Bonham-Carter part.)

It's true that Tyler Durden is, explicitly, barking mad, so it's possible that the film didn't intend to endorse this worldview of his. (Strictly of his alter ego's, as Tyler himself spends the film, in his intellectually shackled middle-class way, wriggling against it.) It wasn't sufficiently clear about what it did endorse, though, for me to have any confidence that this wasn't what it was doing. Certainly casting the charismatic Pitt in the Keyser Söze / Malcolm Crowe role didn't give me any confidence that his apparent position as a Nietzschean ubermensch was being especially problematised.

Factor in the cheap plays on the audience's disgust (the filthy house, the human-fat soap) and the asinine twist (which is about as difficult to see coming as Godzilla in East Anglia), and you have a film which rises above the handicap of its very decent acting and production values to stand proudly as appalling rubbish.

I'm sorry, I just hated it. It's put me right off the idea of ever reading any Chuck Palahniuk.

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