Sunday, 7 December 2008

Choke (2008)

Ahh, the age-old question: film adaptation vs original book. This time, the source material in question belongs to Chuck Palahniuk, the visceral author who gave us 'Fight Club' which spawned an excellent film, largely down to a stellar cast and auteur director David Fincher at the helm. This time, Choke, another Palahniuk diatribe on dysfunctional families and parents f***ing us up, rests on the shoulders of solid Sam Rockwell, whose vacant face and slightly kooky wirey demeanour is perfect for sex addict in denial, Vincent. See Vincent has a mad mother, who would regular steal him from his foster parents and fill his head with apocalypse information. Now she has Altzeimers and resides in a medical hospital. Vincent has spent his life looking for connections and pushing away any female interaction in his life. Is this the 21st Century model of the American family? Now he attends sex addiction meetings so he can bang the girls, he pretends to choke to make connections with new mums and dads who will support him financially and emotionally throughout his life, and fund his mum's care. His best friend is a serial masturbator and he works in a colonial village as a tour guide. This all sounds great and Palahniuk's imagination is never in question, able to pull together disparate strands and slowly attack your suspension of disbelief, so when the pay-off question about whether Vincent is a messianic immaculate conception, you're with him. The big questions, how did Jesus get to be who he is, was he supported by loving parents or was he alone from the start, are also explored.

The problem is, much as this sounds great, and is a brilliant concept, scathing and seething, hilarious and maddening, it's lacking. There is something quite unsubtle about the film. Where Fight Club was an atmospheric sensory assault, this is played like an indie slacker comedy, and the laughs aren't framed properly, the action isn't zippy, and all that remains is a bunch of scenes strung together. Much as Sam Rockwell and Kelly Macdonald put in completely solid performances, there's still a lack of any real suspense or growth. Scenes linger, pacing is lost in aimless voiceover, flashbacks fall out of context. It's simply a mess, a mess of a good idea, made by someone who doesn't understand the message of the source material, so tells the story as literally as he can. At 90 mins, it's the right length, but lacks any zip, pep or fun, instead it's like a Kevin Smith adapation. Choke is one of Palahniuk's most powerful books, and it's a shame that the film version is quite blah and forgettable, and the most fun bit involves a rogue anal bead.

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