Ok, I am about to break the first and second rule of Fight Club… I am going to talk about it and I must warn you that there are some spoilers in this review. I consider this film to be a fantasy drama with hints of dark comedy sprinkled everywhere.
Cornelius (the protagonist) lives a relative stable but very lonely life. The film employs many metaphors to describe the journey of a man dealing with onset depression. The denial of his own need for deeper connections pushes him to replace one addiction for another. Toxic masculinity is the glue that keeps the story together and moves it forward. Cornelius is struggling with insomnia and loneliness. While he tries to remain ‘tough’ and ‘composed’, he reaches out to his physician for help with sleeping. However, it is the same toxic masculinity that is reflected back at him that pushes him to the brink of insanity. His doctor recommends to “do it the natural way, exercise, figure it out.” Implying that ‘real men’ don’t need help. It is around this time that Cornelius meets Tyler Durdan, an amplified expression of raw masculinity as defined by societal standards. Cornelius, who was feeling trapped by his addiction to consumption, becomes seduced by the freedom and confidence exuded by Tyler. Unfortunately for him, he replaces consumerism for an addiction to pain. They decide to start a fight club as a way to express their repressed masculinity. As Tyler explains to new joiners: “we are different, we will not waste our lives pumping gas, sitting on desks, remaining tame. We have a purpose, we stick together, that is how we rise.” This phrase subtly reflects the mentality of victimhood that leads to depression. If these men were so committed to connecting with their inner masculinity, they could have moved to the woods and hunted for a living, but they did not. Blaming external factors for their frustrations is far easier than thinking about what is really important to them for fear of threatening their established identity.
The movie is filled with humorous metaphors stemming from the tragic mental state of the characters. It is funny only because it is happening to him, but the story line describes the sad reality of many people who find themselves battling depression alone. Cornelius creates Tyler out of despair, his alter ego allows him to cope with loneliness in a way that he deems acceptable to his internalized notion of masculinity. So he goes on to accept pain as the price needed to form connections (any attention is better than none), thus forming bonds with men that find themselves operating on the same frequency and who have no one else to turn to. However, despite forming what seems like a strong bond with these men, and even getting away with executing acts of vandalism aimed at sabotaging societal standards, Cornelius still finds himself lonely, disconnected even from his own ideas and desires. He confuses compliance and fear of rejection with deep connections.
Marla Singer (Cornelius’ friend with benz) is a recurrent character that ultimately forces him to confront his own demons. It is unclear if she too is imaginary, but it expresses his ultimate desire for an intimate meaningful connection. The movie is a roller coaster of unexpected twists that portrays the strange ways in which different people express their most basic needs.