Choke is a film based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight
Club. Some of the Fight Club cultist found this film disappointing. Their
negative reactions are astounding. People argued that it was too frothy and
romantic. Mind you, this is a book that ridicules just about anything people
hold dear or sacred: religion, personal development, childhood trauma,
recovery from addiction, and love.
And people found it too warm.
Man, those Chuck Palahniuk fans are hard to please.
It's a story about ... well, it's complicated. Our hero has some
psychological problems brought on by his odd childhood with a mom who is a
con-artist and not a little bit loony. He's a sex addict. He fakes choking
regularly so that he can get people to save him. He likes the outpouring of
love that his saviors lavish on him, and he also likes the money they almost
invariably contribute after he lays a sob story on them. Since he's basically
drifting through lifer aimlessly, his profession is not much of a profession
at all. He dresses up like an 18th century American colonist at one of those
historical re-enactment exhibits.
His life is further complicated by the fact that his mother is dying and
lapsing into senile dementia, but he remains a dutiful son, using all of the
money from his choking scam to get her proper care, and visiting her
regularly. The visits are challenging, to say the least, since mom does not
recognize him, so he has to play whatever role her current delusions assign
him. His mother's mental fog is especially frustrating since he would like her
to regain clarity long enough to tell him who his father is. She has written a
diary, but it's in Italian, so he needs a translator - enter the love
interest. The identity of his father is a shocker. It's God. It seems that his
Italian mother cloned him from a sacred Catholic relic - the foreskin of
Jesus. Since he is a clone, in effect, he is Jesus. Or so it seems.
In addition to all that, there are numerous flashback scenes about his
childhood, there is a sub-plot about his roommate's burgeoning relationship
with a stripper, there are minor subplots within the colonial re-enactment
community, and there is a completely unnecessary encounter with another sex
addict who wants our man to fulfill her rape fantasy in an extremely specific
(and deflating) way.
That sounds like a lot to cover, doesn't it? It is. In fact, it's too much.
I can see why the screenwriter was tempted to include all those elements
from the book, because it's all good stuff, and there are great lines and
memorable set-pieces within each scenario except the childhood flashbacks.
Those were an integral part of the book, which concludes with one of them, but
in the film they just seem like distractions from the story. Worse still, they
are boring, and Angelica Huston's "youth" make-up is neither flattering nor
convincing. But apart from those flashbacks, the material is all quite
amusing, and the actor Sam Rockwell sells it all beautifully.
Unfortunately, the resulting whole is less than the sum of its parts.
Anarchic, free-wheeling techniques which work beautifully on paper don't
always render well on celluloid, as you know if you're still waiting for a
great movie to come from the works of Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut. A film
like this only has 90 minutes or so in which it must tell a story, involve us
in characters, deliver its emotional punch, make us laugh, and make some kind
of point. This particular film needs a tighter focus.
I enjoyed it anyway. Sure it's not Fight Club, but Rockwell and the other
actors have some great comic timing, the film is filled with Palahniuk's
zingers, and the character development can be poignant. I didn't mind at all
that the film added a small amount of redemption towards the end. I don't
really agree with the hardcore Fight Club fans who wanted something darker. In
my opinion a miniscule dash of hope made the film a little more accessible
than what might have resulted from a literal interpretation of the book's
ambiguous ending, and the screenwriter didn't slather on hope like an Obama
speech, so it seemed to work just fine.
In fact, I have to say that I liked the film quite a bit. It has its flaws,
but its virtues are greater. I was moved at times, and I laughed out loud
quite often. What the hell else does one need from a film?
Answer to my own question: "It needs nudity, dude."
This scene takes place in
Sam Rockwell's head as he imagines Bijou Phillips nude. He pictures
three different breast sizes. One of the three may be Bijou, or all three
may be anonymous.
In this scene, Paz de la Huerta
gets it on with Rockwell. She keeps most of the best stuff covered, but
you can still see most of her bum.
Gillian Jacobs is the stripper
who becomes the love interest for Sam's roommate.
Alice Barrett is topless as the
anonymous lavatory sex lady.
This is just some random old woman with