MWN Reviews: Choke

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Last Friday, Clark Gregg’s film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke was released in select theaters. I was busy this weekend, so I didn’t get to see it opening weekend, but last night I had nothing else to do so I dragged a few friends to the local movie theater to see it. Now, I’m no film critic, but I figured since I went I would talk about it a little. This will be spoiler-free, so even if you decide you want to go see the movie after you read this, I won’t have ruined anything for you.

Now, I am really going to try to judge this movie on the movie itself, and not on the way it differs from the book, but in a review like this its impossible not to, in my opinion. I hate to be the “the book was better” guy, as I was the guy who saw Fight Club before I read the book and hated it when people told me the book was better. I hate to be that guy, but in this instance, I can’t help it.

Choke, for the uninitiated, is about Victor Mancini, a man who works at a Colonial reenactment park, who is also a recovering sex addict who’s not trying very hard to recover. Oh yeah, he also goes to restaurants at night and pretends to choke to death on his food, in order to gain the financial support of those who “save” him, so he can pay his ill mother’s hospital bills. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the basics.

With that said, I’m going to go ahead and come straight out and say the film Choke is bad. Pretty damn bad. The book was a very morbid, very grim affair, which is why the film fails when it tries to be a dark romantic comedy. Some moments, which are supposed to be very serious, are expected to be funny just because everyone’s smiling.

Another fault of Choke is the lack of sketching out situations. A lot of events that happened in the book make cameos in the movie, but only quickly enough to confuse the viewer. For example, there is a slight reference to the rocks and 2 mentions about a 4th step, but if you haven’t read the novel you won’t know what they have to do with anything, even after watching the film. I feel like if there was a strong narrator voice throughout the movie explaining things along the way, this would have been less of an issue, but I get the feeling that maybe they didn’t do that since that was Fight Club’s “thing”. Not only does the lack of fleshing out the story make the viewer unaware of everything that is going on, but it also fails to let the viewer feel sympathy for the characters. In the novel, at some point you feel sorrow for Victor, his mother, and Denny, but in the film they’re just characters that are there because someone has to drive the plot to a resolution.

The previous complaints are just general complaints about the movie, reasons why the movie is bad on its own, but this is just a pure book-to-movie complaint. I know when adapting a novel some liberties must be made, but there are HUGE plot points near the end that are not just left out, but completely changed, which in my opinion, weakens the plot drastically.

In closing, if you want to see Choke because you enjoyed the book, don’t. If you want to see Choke because you enjoyed the movie version of Fight Club, don’t. If you want to see Choke because you want to see a good movie, don’t. If you want to see Choke because you want to watch a poorly fleshed-out, hurried film that’s not sure what its trying to accomplish, then sure, go ahead I guess.

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