Film Review: Choke

by Z*
Special to iVoryTowerz

The greatest movies present the greatest challenges. For a new feature film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Choke, it is not an easy task to satisfy the loyal fans of Palahniuk's Fight Club, and its film adaptation. That 1999 adaptation of Fight Club, made the top ten of the 500 greatest movies of all time in this week’s Empire magazine. And although Choke opened to a mixed reception, that doesn’t indicate the film's failure. The movie still stands a chance at gaining recognition and reserving a spot in some elite charts in the future after the initial buzz, theatrical showcases and DVD releases.

Choke’s genre falls between drama and comedy. It’s about the disturbing lifestyle of a sex addict Victor Mancini (played by Sam Rockwell) who makes money by double-acting. During the day, he is a tour guide in a colonial theme park, and in the evenings he is a helpless nice guy who chokes on food, stumbles around gasping for breath (and evaluating the “candidacy”), and finally finds a hero, his ultimate patron, who saves him. Victor receives money from his saviors and spends them on his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother (Anjelica Huston). Choke is funny when Victor is at work but sad and touching when Victor is a son and a bachelor with a troubled childhood.

The film's director Clark Gregg plays a small part as Victor’s manager. Nonetheless, Gregg’s character and its contribution to the laughing side of Choke reflect the biggest achievement of Gregg’s directorial debut: he does not waste characters or scenes. He never abandons his heroes, making each act meaningful in this aimless feature. A scratch on Victor’s ear will be remembered when we go back to his traumatized childhood and understand how it shaped his adulthood. A random sex scene, one out of dozens, draws laughs in the end, long after it’s seemingly forgotten. A stripper brightens up his friends' life, while teaching Victor that appearances are deceptive, etc. That is why in a matter of eighty-nine minutes the viewers go through a wide range of emotions. They feel disgusted, compassionate, nauseated, sympathetic, angered, sad, romantic, you name it.

Images of female bodies of various age groups and frequent love-making scenes without the essential part — love — might make some people call it a night before the movie is over, but the lovers of twisted plots will appreciate Gregg’s work. Choke might disappoint those who read the book as the movie does not precisely follow it. Apparently, according to Gregg, Palahniuk advised him not to be too faithful to his text, so the film turned out to be, in the first place, inspired by the novel rather than playing it out on screen.

*Z is from a country that made up the Soviet Union, and her writing on cultural and political matters could have a backlash when she returns home from the U.S., so she writes under a pseudonym.

(The promotional poster for Choke is from Fox Searchlight Pictures. To see a trailer for the film, please check below.)

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