Cast Away: Fight Club for the middle-aged? SPOILERS!!!

Calvin Cullen

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I just saw Cast Away, and was struck by some bizarre similarites with Fincher's Fight Club. Superficially, both films feature:
1. A plane crash: One real, one imagined
2. Imaginary friends: Tyler and Wilson
3. Really awesome Fox special edition DVDs
At the beginning of Cast Away, Chuck is a slave to his job. His chain is the clock, his shackles are cell phones and pagers. His career leads him to berate his subordinates, neglect the woman who loves him and even steal a bike from an innocent child. He cannot relate to the emotional turmoil of his best friend (who's wife is dying of cancer). He is not a human, merely a robot -- devoid of free will and blindly following the American Dream. He goes where his company tells him, when they tell him. He abandons his new fiancee during perhaps the most meaningful moment of both their lives. HE SHOULD HAVE NEVER GOT ON THAT AIRPLANE. (Or should he?)
After his little ordeal on the island, he returns to Memphis. The world has changed and so has he. But his change involves more than football teams and SUVs. He is now a full-fledged Human Being, with the ability to break away from the path society has chosen for him. His former lover has "moved on" with her life -- thanks to the advice of her friends. She is married to a man she obviously does not love, and they have a child. She has abandoned her intellectual career pursuits to become the June Cleaver of the 1990s. Despite the pain she must have felt when she thought Chuck was dead, she is still stuck doing what SOCIETY EXPECTS OF HER -- rather than pursuing her own dreams in any meaningful way. This is why she cannot abandon her husband for Chuck, the man she has never stopped loving.
Chuck feels no such obligation to the demands of society. The Fed-Ex package was his last link to the person he was. He ends the film at a crossroads, free (as a bird) to pursue any path he wishes.
The thematic parallels to Fight Club should now be obvious - You are not your job, etc. In the end, Ed Norton is free to be himself. He also gets the girl -- a conceit of the young. At the end of Cast Away, Chuck gets any girl he wants -- clearly a conceit of the middle-aged. Zemeckis really dropped the ball on this one, but the subversive elements of the screenplay are still there for anyone willing to look.
[Edited last by Calvin Cullen on September 03, 2001 at 06:01 PM]
 

Brian_J

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A little too much time on your hands?
Brian
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Walter Kittel

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While I agree, on the surface there are similarities; I'm not convinced that the films are attempting to deliver the same message.
Admittedly both films attempt to resolve the inner natures of their lead characters. However the approach and what that says about the characters is completely different. The biggest difference between the two films is the process by which the transformation of the lead characters takes place. Fight Club's nihilistic and deeply cynical propensities are tonally at odds with Cast Away's life affirming values. This is most obviously reflected in the location of the films, with the urban nightmare of Fight Club being the exact antithesis of the tropical setting of Cast Away.
My take on Fight Club has always been that 'while materialism is bad, nihilism is worse'. Cast Away offers the view that you have to slow down and savor life, not that you have to become an anarchist to discover your essential nature.
Regardless, it is an interesting comparison that I'll bear in mind the next time I watch either film.
- Walter.
[Edited last by Walter Kittel on September 03, 2001 at 11:29 PM]
 

Holadem

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What is 'Nihilism"?
A question I often ask myself is if I would be willing to go thru what Hank's experience to end up where he did - Crossroads, you can go ANYWHERE you want.
What da ya think?
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Holadem
 

Mitty

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Main Entry: ni·hil·ism
Pronunciation: 'nI-(h)&-"li-z&m, 'nE-
Function: noun
Etymology: German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil nothing -- more at NIL
Date: circa 1817
1 a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths
2 a (1) : a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program or possibility (2) capitalized : the program of a 19th century Russian party advocating revolutionary reform and using terrorism and assassination b : TERRORISM
- ni·hil·ist /-list/ noun or adjective
- ni·hil·is·tic /"nI-(h)&-'lis-tik, "nE-/ adjective
A question I often ask myself is if I would be willing to go thru what Hank's experience to end up where he did - Crossroads, you can go ANYWHERE you want.
For a person in Chuck's situation - unmarried, no kids, presumably no debt (at least nothing not attached to a soluble asset), it's something that CAN be chosen. He didn't have to go through that experience to arrive at that crossroads. That's not to say starting a "new life" is an easy choice to make, but people have done it.
But, ultimately, what do we imagine happens to the characters after the credits roll? Do we think Chuck leads a blissful enlightened life? What about Ed Norton's character? This is why the movies have convenient fades to black.
 

Dave Dugan

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Actually, at the end of Fight Club Spoiler:"Jack" and Marla hold hands touchingly just before being crushed by tons of metal and concrete when the explosives in the van downstairs trigger the destruction of the building in which they stand. I guess you could call that getting the girl...
-Dave
 

Ross Williams

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Dave,
Spoiler:The building they were in wasn't set to explode.
I missed that the first time.
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don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you." - Silent Bob
"No matter where you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Bonzai
Optimus Prime Films
[Edited last by Ross Williams on September 05, 2001 at 06:37 PM]
 

Shawn C

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Yeah,
Spoiler:They were in the building across the street that was setup for the 'show'.
[Edited last by Shawn C on September 05, 2001 at 09:01 PM]
 

Brian_J

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Spoiler:Do we really need spoiler tags for discussion threads?
Brian
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Seth Paxton

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Spoiler:Shhh, it's a secret
No death.
And I agree with Walter and Mitty's comments, both.
Mitty is dead-on regarding "philosophy" and films, and even books, songs, etc. It's easy to pontificate on any subject when you can conveniently exit at the right time.
Think about your own life and how good it might seem if only you could fade to black at just the right moment.
That being said, art still does offer us some things to think about, it's just that the application to our life can differ greatly from how things were done in the film.
 

SteveMc

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Nihilism,pontificate...damn it, where did I leave my dictionary...
I'm going back to the Lounge where people speak monosyllabically

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Mitty

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Think about your own life and how good it might seem if only you could fade to black at just the right moment.
Have to break up with a total psycho you've been dating? Just say, "Um, we have to talk." - FADE TO BLACK. NEXT DAY.
Have to make a really difficult life decision? Give pensive look...FADE TO BLACK. SIX MONTHS LATER.
Got a terrible hangover? A couple of minutes with an ice pack on your head, then...FADE TO BLACK. NEXT DAY -- AT THE OFFICE.
 

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