By: The Dweeb
Choke is the film adaptation of the novel by Fight Club scribe Chuck Palahniuk, and if you know that film you will find many parallels to the themes in this wacked out dark comedy. Its an indie film that made its debut during last years Sundance Film Festival and was promptly picked up by Fox. Now, this is not your typical indie movie fare. Its an odd film, making many unexpected left turns that dares to go comedic with some really dark topics, a signature of Palahniuk’s, he goes where no one else has gone before to mine the comedy nuggets out of the dirt. It works on some levels, on others not so much. There’s plenty of boobies and semi graphic scenes, so watching this one with the folks would not be recommended. And this isn’t Fight Club either, but I just broke the first rule on that one. Move along there’s nothing to see here.
But at the same time, it is very much like Fight Club. Writer Chuck Palahniuk has a running theme consisting of group therapy, odd mental disorders, general mischief, violent behaviors, sexual deviations, and characters who dwell below the radar of normal society. In fact they very much go against societal customs in every possible manner, everyone is dysfunctional in some capacity to the point where it becomes almost normal in this film. The main character Victor (Sam Rockwell), in trying to deal with his estranged and seemingly demented mother (Anjelica Houston) in a psychiatric hospital is constantly looking for attention and fulfillment from strangers either through his sex addiction or choking on food in restaurants. Because of his bizarre upbringing and lack of emotional support from his mother, this is his release from his problems, the moment of calm after the climax is what he lives for. He is another wimp loser character. It doesn’t help that his friend Denny (Brad Henke) is also a chronic masturbator, but that makes for some hilarious scenes. What’s interesting for this character driven film, everyone goes through some sort of arc to conclusion and by the end have evolved in some way. Victor does not. We last see him doing his usual thing with women, so for him nothing has seemed to change much.
But I did enjoy watching this character develop throughout the movie, there are plenty of hilarious moments and many that are uncomfortable at the same time. I suppose Choke is trying to say something about our society. Underneath the civilized and puritan exterior, there’s some sexual repression in all of us just waiting to come out. Emphasized I think by the idea that for many of the characters, their day jobs consist of very sterile environments. Victor and Denny both work in a historical Williamsburg like place as re-enactors, fitting as its the very definition of Puritan. They don’t quite fit in here either.
For an independent film, Fox has actually created quite a bit of extra content for this DVD package which is unusual. Most of the time this type of stuff is thrown out there on barebones DVD and quietly forgotten. There is a commentary track, deleted scenes with optional commentary, and the obligatory gag reel. I mean how could you not include the gag reel for this film right? The more interesting bits is the conversation between director Clark Gregg and author Chuck Palahniuk on how this film came about and how it is different from the book. There is also a clip from the Q&A session from a film festival where Palahniuk explains what inspired him to come up with this story.
Overall, despite some issues I have with parts of the story, and just the general strange dark nature of the film it does have some funny light moments. Somehow the ending was not as fulfilling for me, the long lead up the ‘money shot’ as it were made the ending kind of dull. I thought to myself, this is it?