Monday, September 29, 2008

Choke

Chuck Palahniuk's modern classic is brought to life on the silver screen in the Fox Searchlight indie production of Choke.

For the most part, director and screenplay writer Clark Gregg stays true to the original text. A few little strays here and there throughout the first two thirds of the film get you by in this low-budget offering. The casting is strong on the majors, but a little weak on the minors. Sam Rockwell is fantastic as the charming-but-flawed Victor Mancini who trolls sex addiction support groups for willing partners in his own addictive behaviors. Anjelica Huston is his career troublemaker mother, Ida, who is dying in a hospital. Brad Henke is surprisingly well cast as Victor's always-losing best friend Denny who is carrying his own share of sexual deviance.

Knowing it's not fair to compare a movie to the book that it is based on, it has to be said that there was a LOT of material that was glossed over in the movie that should probably been expounded upon or left out entirely because they feel like they are just kind of thrown in for fun. Denny's rock collection, Victor's Jesus comparisons, Ida's social experiments in the flashbacks to Victor's childhood and even the mundane existence at Colonial Dunsboro are all major parts of the book that felt rushed in the movie.

Gregg clearly has a reverance for the book that shows through, but he seems to assume a familiarity with these side themes in the story that a viewer who has not read the book will probably not understand. Even the choking in resaurants part of the story gets less attention than it deserves, especially since the story is called Choke.

If you have not read the book, the movie will be enjoyable. If you are able to separate the source material from the end product (like watching the new Star Wars movies without thinking of the original Holy Trilogy), the movie will be enjoyable. If you cannot separate movies from the books they were based on, you will probably be disappointed, especially in the ending. Similarly, if you watch this trying to compare it to Fight Club (also a Palahniuk novel of sheer genius), you will also be let down.

This movie has a less serious tone than either Fight Club or the writings of Palahniuk in general, but seems to hit its mark as a twisted, dark comedy that tries to showcase acting and characters more than dialogue and story. In that regard, it holds the feel of the book because the insane and insanely interesting characters are the strongest part of the novel, where the story is just kind of the background of the book.

The book version is an A+, but the Choke film really only deserves a B+ for glossing over too much of the book when the film would have been served better to leave out parts of the book entirely to give more attention to others.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

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