This blistering movie from 1999 is based on one of my all-time favourite books – the taut and beautiful debut by Chuck Palahniuk – and features incendiary performances from Ed Norton, Helena Bonham-Carter and one seriously ripped Brad Pitt.
The direction from Fincher is slick and whip-smart and evokes the bleak, sleep-walking dystopia of the narrator. The film, like the book, swipes at the sterility of modernity. At marketing and adverts. At corporations. At family breakdown. We see the anti-hero’s rebellion, his despair , his breakdown and his twisted romance with Marla Singer.
His critique of IKEA-living really smarts. The lament when we enter his condo: “How embarrassing… a house full of condiments and no food” really cuts. Who hasn’t opened their own fridge, or seen berkish celebrities on Cribs, displaying jars of mustards and dressings, booze and snacks, but not a stick of proper food? He questions “What kind of dining set defines me as a person?” exposing my own flirtation with design-porn. I have been guilty of pouting when not being able to afford my dream cup-and-saucer-set. Can this be right?
He notes “Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends.” And who hasn’t felt queasy when seeing one of those “frozen Roast dinners for One” in the supermarket and considering the bleak circumstances in which you would eat one yourself.
The narrator also rallies against the injustice of the service industry. We hear about how Tyler’s guerrilla activities. About how: “Apart from seasoning the lobster bisque, he farted on the meringue, sneezed on braised endive, and as for the cream of mushroom soup, well…” and we’re asked to consider how we interact with those who serve us. Those who we pay to wait our tables and process our insurance application forms. This film certainly makes us question what has happened to the food we order when we eat out (GULP) and it may also make us think about much much more. A perfect movie.