Sunday, 30 November 2008

Choke Review

I was prompted to write this review after reading a short summary in The London Paper which briefly surmised Choke as an "enjoy con-artist comedy". Following their 'logic', I guess you'd have to describe the Chuck Palanuik's other film adaptation as "an amusing fighting film".

Now, the film does feature 'con-artistry' (from both the protagonist and his mother), but it's far too simple a way to sum up the film. I'd dub Choke a 'comedic incestual exploration of modern-day sexuality, mother issues and faith' - at best, the 'con-artistry' features in less than a quarter of the film.

While I'm defending the film's themes, it doesn't mean I was amazingly impressed by this Palahniuk adaptation. Unfortunately the music (an integral part of Fight Club - see Pixies - Where is my Mind?), although standout in places (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Satan Said Dance) was too sparse, and often scenes which would have been enhanced by musical accompaniment were strangely silent.

Although I disagree with the con-artistry part of the description, the comedic elements of the film are brilliantly handled, with particularly help from Rockwell's bemused Victor Mancini, experiencing anal bead indigestion, being asked to 'fake rape' an obsessively clean woman who can't stand mess, and dealing with the slightly dim-witted stripper who in response to Victor's statement 'blonds have a higher risk of cancer' dyes her hair brunette.
Speaking of the cast, Rockwell (see above picture) perfect slips into the role of Victor Mancini, bringing both his zany (see Zaphod in HHGTTG) and serious (see Matchstick Men and parts of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) sides to the everyman GenXer. Kelly Macdonald as Paige Marshall didn't quite work (although this may have been down to the script rather than her acting)- lacking the confidence from the book which meant she wasn't as believable as a doctor, which meant the twist at the end of the film was more obvious. Angelica Huston as Victor's mother Ida was unused and didn't have much to work with at the start of the film as a result of being sedated and bed-ridden. However, as we began saw the flashbacks of her and Victor's past, she was fun to watch in her wacky, slightly off-balance from reality way (reminiscent of her role in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).

In terms of comparisons to the book, a few details are missed out on screen, such as the Mother's hypnosis of men (allowing them believe they are sleeping with famous people), Victor seeing everything in medical terms (illness, anatomy) and Paige claiming she is from the future - all of which touch on the idea of perception of reality - an important issue in the book. So although Choke manages to cram in most of the scenes its source material, it often forgets to go into the themes - which are the best and most original bits of the novel. A good example of this is the airplane sex, where we learn of Victor's first sex act- the film treats it lightly and we don't see the meaningless of it portrayed in the book. That being said, the colonial theme park museum is well depicted, visually odd and different, acting as a parallel for the sexually repressed society which Victor riles against.

The ending was unfortunately quite rushed, without the book's strange religious babel-esque castle built of rocks as well as the bizarre 'sent from the future' Paige, which leaves the reader creepily confused about what is real at the end of the novel. The film instead lets us have a more cheerful ending with Victor and Paige getting together. Overall, it covers enough of the book (adding its own to the comic scene) while retaining its own originality to be a good film, although I think that it could have been much more. Now, I hope they can finally adapt Survivor (by the same author)!

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