Hitting theaters this Friday is Choke, coming to us from the ‘incendiary author of Fight Club!’  Who doesn’t get excited when the words ‘from the [insert pronoun here] who brought you Fight Club!;  Like most angsty young men, I hopped on that train when it came through.  Tyler Durden, Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, they became my heroes.  I wanted the ‘Save Marla Singer’ t-shirt (but never found one).  And I also started reading everything that Chuck Palahnuik wrote.  He captured my feelings and wrapped them up in wickedly entertaining books.

Choke was no exception.  The story follows Victor (Sam Rockwell), a sex-addict that works at colonial Williamsburg as a tour guide.  His mother (Angelica Houston), who f-ed him right up with her poor parenting skills, is dying because she forgets to eat due to her Alzheimer’s.  Victor works full-time to afford his mom the expensive private nursing home that he still can’t really pay for.  He devised a plan to ‘accidentally’ choke in public places where he relies on strangers to save his life.  These strangers feel bonded to him for life and send him money on his birthday, at Christmas, and when he writes them with sob stories about medical expenses and such.  There’s the occasional dysfunctional love interest, and the sex-addict best friend plays his part.  All in all, the book is truly a dirty-minded satire that his hilarious, dark, and meaningful.

Unfortunately, director Clark Gregg, who adapted the screenplay, kind of screwed the book up.  The movie is fine, the directing is fine, the acting is better than average, but Gregg dumbed down Palahniuk’s novel to make it a more mainstream comedy.  Instead of depending on the nihilism that Palahniuk captures so well in his novels, Gregg depends on showing girls jogging in slow motion to get his giggles.  In addition to this, Gregg strays from the main plot and cuts out, what I felt at least, was a very important plot line. I saw this film at Sundance this year, and although everyone fell all over themselves to kiss Gregg’s and Palahniuk’s ass during the Q&A, the truth is this: the film doesn’t come close to the excellence of the book.

The actors do their jobs well.  Sam Rockwell (who plays Victor) seems to get the original mood that was intended and plays his part so hilariously, he’ll stick with you for days.  The narrative is coherent enough, and you’ll definitely be interested in the sordid, off-color plot. Choke really will make you laugh, it just doesn’t do the book justice.


Rottentomatoes: 85%Cream of the Crop: Currently not enough top critic reviews

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6 Responses to “Choke”
  1. Fletch says:

    This is what I was afraid of. Ever since I saw the first trailer, I thought it looked like a much dumber version of the book. While the book certainly has its share of comedy, I guess I just read it with much more of a black comedy tone than a straight up/physical humor one.

  2. Rachel says:

    I’ve come to decide that watching the movie first, then reading book, keeps my mind much more open to the variations in the adaptation. Otherwise, I will undoubtedly hate a film based on a book I’ve previously read.

    Great re view. Looking forward to this one.

  3. Jessica says:

    I love Sundance! I hate it, though, when the movie people mess up a book. I don’t think they have to make an exact replication of the book, but some effort should be made to recreate the tone and general plot. Really.

  4. Amber says:

    I’ve never read anything by Chuck Palahnuik though I have friends who swear Fight Club is the best book ever written.

    I love Sam Rockwell and will probably get around to seeing this at some point. If I’m disappointed I’ll know the source material is better.

  5. Mad Hatter says:

    When I first noticed this post this week, coupled with your low score, I worried that maybe you didn’t “get it”.

    Now that I’ve seen the flick, and read your review again, I couldn’t agree with you more…except maybe to argue how bad the movie is. This story deserved better attention than the steaming pile this director came up with.

    Where’s David Fincher when you need him?

  6. Blake says:

    Hatter, I’m glad you agree with me, at least on some points. I was seriously disappointed after watching this. It was one of the films I looked forward to the most at Sundance this year.

    David Fincher would have been a godsend for this film. Gregg is no longer to be trusted when it comes to adaptations.

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