Revenge of the Nerds

Fight Club

This is Norton's movie, no doubt continuing his hot career trajectory (Primal Fear, American History X), and here he is energetic and ridiculous, a perfect tragic clown. Pitt goes a bit hammy with his would-be messianic role, but his adrenaline saves it. As for Bonham Carter, Frankenstein was infinitely worse, but it's still a drag to see her slumming her way through this thing as if she's Christina Ricci's jealous aunt. (Too much Merchant-Ivory, Helena? Or have you already heard that about 5000 times?) The finest turn here is by rocker-actor Meat Loaf Aday, giving John Lithgow (The World According to Garp) a run for his long-standing title of Best Actor Playing a Transsexual (Accidental or Otherwise) in a Motion Picture.

So all right, is this trendy '90s mire of dissatisfaction finally over? Have we beat the drum of useless fathers and pointless jobs hard enough? (Yeah, it sucks to wear a tie. And?) Can Gen Xers move beyond decay and despair? More to the point, do we have to keep repeating that the only way to feel anything anymore is to experience severe pain?

If our culture is based on hideous lies, then catharsis is indeed part of the antidote, but are we really expected to buy dumb degradation as transcendence? What's disappointing about Fight Club (and other Fincher movies) is its unyielding focus on disintegration; to work, there must be something besides hollow nothingness under all the destruction. "Artists" like Fincher (or parallel goofball Reznor) may wish to consider getting over themselves sometime in the near future, for bludgeoning us with disintegration becomes tedious and predictable, prompting a quote straight from Norton's dialogue: "I am Jack's complete lack of surprise."

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