“Choke” is the big-screen adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name. Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is a sex addict. As a day job, he’s a historical re-enactor at a Colonial theme park. At night, he has a penchant for making himself choke in order to be saved by the good samaritans in the area (who, more often then not, having saved a life, also feel compelled to help financially secure Victor long after the rescue has passed). Victor’s mother, Ida (Anjelica Huston), is in a constant care facility and is convinced that Victor is not her son, but a lawyer friend of hers. All is (sadly) status quo… until Mom reveals that Victor’s parentage may be more interesting than he previously thought.
With the help of a doctor at the hospital, Paige (Kelly Macdonald), Victor tries to piece together the truth of who is, or isn’t, his father (and what that does, or does not, make him). The journey that ensues involves woo-woos and anal beads, butter churns and public stock punishment.
As an adaptation, “Choke” is extremely faithful. So much so that, upon leaving the theater, I was hard-pressed to come up with anything that I could remember from the book that I didn’t see or hear expressed on screen. Also to the film’s credit, in spite of having read the book, I felt the revelations and plot developments were fresh and engaging. Quite often, when you know what’s coming, you don’t really invest in the “what” so much as the “how,” and “Choke” enables you to do both.
On an acting scale, everyone is up to the task. Rockwell portrays Mancini convincingly, and Anjelica Huston’s portrayal as his mother leaves us both sympathetic and saddened (though for different reasons). Ultimately, there’s not one blight on the acting scope and, across the line, the film is delivered competently. Which leads to my only major criticism…
The film feels flat. I don’t know how to express my criticism much more than to say that things unfold before you, but you never really engage in the world beyond just watching it. Everything was good across the board, but nothing was terribly exceptional. It didn’t hurt me to see the film, but it also didn’t do anything for me. It just was. This is not the worst thing a film can do, deliver a proper adaptation of a book, but it doesn’t over-achieve at all either.
If you’re a fan of Palahniuk’s work, this film won’t let you down or break your heart. “Choke” doesn’t do so much as to offend anyone, really… and perhaps that’s the problem. Still, the film is hardly a waste of your time and it is an interesting tale to see unfold before you, whether you’re reading or watching it.