Monday, September 29, 2008


When reading Chuck Pahlaniuk’s funny, insightful and eager-to-shock novel “Choke,” with its nonchalant grotesquerie and sexually explicit psychology, I never imagined the film adapation of it could be described as “warm,” “touching” and “accessible” without totally betraying the spirit and instincts of the book. But here we are, and somewhat inexplicably, writer/director Clark Gregg has stayed remarkably true to the book (only switching around some scenes, and removing minor details, such as one character’s supposed time travel), while delivering it all with a carefully light touch that makes the end product almost approach the realm of “mainstream. “ Where Pahlaniuk’s “Fight Club” may have been overloaded with plot, “Choke” is basically a character study and a stream-of-consciousness recounting of a period in said characters’s life; the character is Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a Colonial “historical interpreter” struggling with – or rather, embracing – sex addiction, while regularly pretending to choke in restaurants to earn sympathy and money to fund his dementia-riddled mother’s (Anjelica Houston) hospital bills. A Fincher-esque visual style may have made things a bit more interesting (Gregg employs but a single visual trick: projecting the images Victor pictures to keep from “triggering” on a girl’s back mid-fuck), but like Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow, Gregg’s deft handling of material and impressive sense of comedic pacing/timing almost entirely makes up for it (you’ll find no awkward jokes falling flat or silent sitcom “laugh” beats here). Like the book, the film takes an amusingly skewed view at sex, love, and oedipal pop-psychology, and refreshingly avoids the convention that a mother-son reconcialiation or heart-to-heart is the proper resolution for the characters. But while such complexities work, “Choke” is above all worth watching because it’s just a very entertaining flick that also functions as a much-deserved showcase for Rockwell.


Post a Comment

<< Home