Bright Lights Film Journal

<em>Fight Club</em> Hits New Low in Testosterone Impairment

This just in – men are stupid.

“It is useless,” Dr. Johnson1 once remarked, “to criticize an unresisting imbecility.” He was referring, of course, to Carrot Top’s act, but his observation applies with equal force to the recent Brad Pitt/Ed Norton debacle, Fight Club.

Based on the novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, adapted for the screen by Jim Uhls, and directed by David Fincher, Fight Club is probably the most authentic film about bare-knuckle brawling ever made. It shows every sign of being the product of permanent brain damage.

We begin with poor Ed Norton, working for an evil company (why doesn’t he quit?) for a boss he hates (why doesn’t he quit?) doing a job that disgusts him (why doesn’t he quit?). He has a thing for this chick (Helena Bonham Carter, the one pair of tits in the whole damn movie), but she won’t give him the time of day.

Ed tells us of his woes ad nauseam in an endless voiceover that sounds like mildewed Raymond Chandler. (Isn’t film supposed to be a visual medium?) When Ed’s condo is firebombed (it could happen), he calls up this hip dude he met on a plane (Brad Pitt, of course, though disguised as Wayne Newton) who invites him to move in with him (it could happen).

Brad lives in an enormous, dilapidated mansion – “where nothing works,” Ed tells us (although, in fact, everything works) – and the two of them have a blast, hitting golf balls and staying up late and doing all kinds of shit.

Ed stays with his chickenshit day job, but he also helps Brad with his job, which is making designer soap out of human fat stolen from liposuction clinics (it could happen). They take it to fancy-schmancy department stores and sell it for twenty bucks a bar (it could happen) for rich chicks to wash themselves with. “We’re selling their fat asses back to them,” Ed snickers. Yeah, cows, it serves you right!

Ed and Brad hang out in this really tough bar, and when they get to punching each other out in the parking lot, the other guys are really impressed, and they form this club, called Fight Club, where guys take turns beating each other up.

Helena shows up, I forget how, and Brad starts boffing her – and you should hear the noise she makes, the pig! – but it’s only sex. He really likes Ed the best.

And so we see cool Brad teaching wimpy Ed how to be a man – which apparently means dressing like a Key West cabana boy and getting the crap beat out of you.

For the first 45 minutes or so, Fight Club is entertainingly stupid, although the subtext must have gays rolling on the floor – well, you know what I mean. But once Brad starts recruiting his own terrorist army, the film spins helplessly out of control. We learn that Brad has been secretly visiting dozens of cities, setting up dozens of fight clubs, and recruiting hundreds of terrorists. Presumably, he’s rented dilapidated mansions in each of these cities and established a human-soap business in each of them as well (the soap is needed to make explosives), in addition to being beaten up 10 or 20 times a week in the various fight clubs he visits. He does all this without Ed’s knowledge, until it turns out that Brad really is Ed! He’s a projection of Ed’s ego, or his id, or something. So it was Ed that was doing everything that Brad did, without knowing it! (And still holding down his chickenshit day job!) So Ed shoots himself in the mouth, which kills Brad, but not Ed. Ed can’t stop the terrorists he’s organized from destroying all the financial records in the country (we’ve been assured that blowing up several hundred large office buildings won’t hurt anyone), but he and Helena do get together at the end.

Fight Club is pathetic filmmaking, but it does demonstrate that when a man sets his mind to it, he can be almost as stupid as Susan Faludi.2


Out of respect for its readers, BLFJ will provide no links of any kind for Fight Club.

  1. I think it was Dr. Johnson. []
  2. No man can be as stupid as Susan Faludi, but Edmund Morris comes close. []