Tuesday, November 4, 2008

...Or Do You Swallow?

ChokeDirected by Clark Gregg(2008)

The only Chuck P. book I own. It's a very funny book, about lust and salvation, and here it is on screen in...pretty good form. That is to say I was a little dissapointed, with the ending in particular, which strikes a very different tone (not terrible, just different)....but that's niether here nor there. Choke is the story of Victor, med-school dropout who takes care of his 70's radical mom now suffering from dementia and dying after years of drug use and mental instability. In order to pay for her upkeep, Victor pulls double duty at his two jobs, one as an employee at a Colonial American theme park, and two, choking on food in restuaraunts, so that those who save his life, will feel obligated to help him out with cash from time to time. Who would save someone's life, only to let them die, once you know their sad penniless (over exaggerated) story? Victor targets the wealthy and affluent, "You don't wanna get saved by some waiter", he says in one of many direct adresses to the audience. The broken 4th wall, reminiscent of Fight Club, is taken directly from the book, and one of the films stronger techniques. In the hospital he meets, a young doctor, who assists him in translating his mother's diary, which leads to shoking questions about Victor's origins, and his father or lack there of. Victor goes to sex addict meetings usually just to have sex in the bathroom with fellow addicts. While his best freind Denny, a chronic masturbator, begins taking his first shaky steps to recover, which involves romancing a Stripper and collecting rocks for each day his sobriety, "idle hands are the devils playground". The sex addiction and the need to save his mom, are the twin turbins that propel this film, and by the end they are both so clearly entertwined it escapes being exploitative.
I enjoyed this version of Choke, which was kinda of like Choke-Light, but still very funny, if only slightly missing the aim of the novel; the heady and vulgar mix of the sacred and the profane. That is to say, important sub-plots, and main-plot points get muted; we know why Victor chokes, there are more reasons than I stated above, but we don't get to see the people who fund his faints here, as we do in the book, and so that aspect of the story, seems a little disconnected. As do Denny and the rocks, another vital story element for me, got put on the backburner here. Denny replaces one fetish with another, and most of the rooms of his house are filled with rocks(not in the movie). My favorite flashback is left out too, where Victor muses that as a child his only sense of stablity growing up, was knowing no matter where he was he could view the same internet porn site, of a man and a monkey, and how thier mutually humiliarted smile, was all that kept him going sometimes.... (Below is a photograph from the original end of the movie & book, that was cut before release. Here we would see all of the people Victor has scammed meeting up at Denny's Rock Formation. Either to stone him to death, or help build...we will never know)Okay, but everyone always says the book is better than the movie, I know, I know, I just had to get that out. What's left of Choke though is commanded by Sam Rockwell, who is only improving as an actor, and Angelica Houston who needs no intro. While it's not as conceptually taught as I would have liked, its still really, really funny, and at a few moments, a bit moving (Ive got a personal soft spot for movies with visits to the demented in hospitals; The Savages is especially hard to watch), at least for me. It's an allegorical sex comedy, but it's also a very accessible one, considering the wierdness of the material. It's a more personal story than "Fight Club", and almost an opposite idealogoy, "building anything", versus "tearing down everthing", but told in the same sardonic writerly tone, weve come to expect from Palahniuk. In the end, I just wanted more, but it was fun, and the story was brought to life, mostly just as I had imagined it when reading.
Also it's got the funniest and perhaps the only funny, "rape" scene, ever filmed (it is and it's not what it sounds like).

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