By Bret Polish, 15, Cleveland HS
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"The first two hours of director David Fincher’s latest film Fight Club proves to be one of the most exhilarating black comedies since Trainspotting. But it’s disheartening that a movie which had so much working in its favor takes a 180 degree turn in the complete wrong direction at the end. The film’s plot revolves around a man so nameless, he’s just billed as the Narrator (played by Edward Norton). The Narrator is stuck in a dead-end job and a dull life until he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on one of his working vacations. Along with Tyler he creates "fight club," a place where men meet to take out their aggression on each other. Soon "fight clubs" begin spreading across the country, and it becomes clear that Tyler has more in mind than just creating fight clubs. Although the plot takes an absurd turn at the end, for the most part writer Jim Uhl’s script (which was adapted from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name) is a biting, witty commentary on consumer-based everyday life. At the beginning of the film, the Narrator finds purpose in life through the things he buys, although this doesn’t make him happy. Without a doubt, the first two hours showcase Fincher at his brazenly uninhibited best. In the office scenes, Fincher’s camera remains calm, but in every other scene he’s willing to shove his camera anywhere and everywhere. In one scene the camera goes through the Narrator’s brain and then comes out of his mouth. It’s this very lack of restraint that symbolizes the film’s views on anarchy and consumerism which has made the Narrator’s life so shallow and futile. Violent fight scenes are an integral part of the story, but I wasn’t affected by them because it was so unrealistic and cartoonish. Even though the film was gruesomely violent at times, Fincher never lingered on shots of brutality, which is just about as discreet as something of this sort can get. When Jared Leto’s character gets his face beaten in, you see seconds of the impact, and then Fincher cuts away. I also admired the dank, seedy atmosphere that pervades just about every single frame after the Narrator meets Tyler. While some of Tyler’s later speeches were a little too pretentious for my tastes and a few of the jokes at the end were overly self-conscious, most of the script’s barbs and observations were bracingly original and wickedly funny. For example, one of the scenes I found hysterical showed Tyler at his projectionist job splicing brief shots of porn into Disney films. In the next scene, children are watching the film and a little boy starts crying. However, in the wake of a film as tightly woven as the hilarious American Beauty, it seems like a lot of Fight Club’s ideas were just thrown together. Many of the scenes lack fluidity and feel cobbled together, but I was so caught up in the film’s remarkably realistic atmosphere that I only noticed this problem in retrospect. The film might have succeeded if these flaws had been smoothed out by the conclusion, but the ending created even more problems. Like The Usual Suspects and more recently The Sixth Sense, the final 30 minutes of Fight Club forces the viewer to question the Narrator’s reliability. Unlike those two fine films, the conclusion of Fight Club negates all that came before it. The movie brings up so many good ideas about the conditions that lead to fascism, male aggression, and humanity’s need for a definite purpose in life. But instead of thinking about these questions, I found myself wondering why the ending makes no sense. The final twist is such a far-fetched convolution that thinking about it is enough to give any viewer a headache. The film’s biggest strength is its performances. In the film’s most complex role, Edward Norton is superb. While the film’s ending may not do him or his intricate character any justice, he gives an undeniably great performance that hopefully will get a nod from the Academy. Brad Pitt is also good, but I wasn’t as impressed by his showy performance as I was with Norton’s finely understated one. As the Narrator’s love interest, Helena Bonham Carter is very good, but I felt that the movie didn’t devote enough time to developing her character. There’s a lot to like about Fight Club, but it’s hard not to feel cheated by that cop-out of an ending. I find it hard to like, let alone recommend, a film that doesn’t have the courage to follow its criticism of material everyday life, even if its merits greatly outnumber its flaws."