We’d group "Fight Club" in that fierce minority of film literary adaptations that turned out better than the novels on which they’re based ("Silence of the Lambs" is in there too, as is "No Country for Old Men"). It’s got something to do with the mix of David Fincher’s prodigal filmmaking abilities, the way the conceit behind the twist works better visually than on the page, a lack of obligation to hew too closely to the source material and the fact that, at least for us, writer Chuck Palahniuk’s ideas have always been better than his writing. Case in point: "Choke," the directorial debut of actor Clark Gregg and the second adaptation of one of Palahniuk’s books, demonstrates that without an audacious filmmaker behind them, most of those ideas don’t seem more remarkable than any in the average Sundance quirk-off. Not that "Choke" isn’t amusing, salacious and halfway touching, but its elements of working in a colonial-themed tourist attraction, pretending to choke in restaurants so that strangers will take an interest in you and picking up women at sex-addition group meetings do blend into the festival’s other offerings of abused agoraphobic porn addicts and orphaned professional suicide note writers.
Sam Rockwell plays Victor Mancini, the ragged-looking, perpetually horny practicer of the activities listed above. His mother, Ida (Anjelica Huston), is dying of Alzheimer’s, and Victor struggles each month to make the $3,000 needed to keep her in private care, with the added wrinkle that the new doctor (Kelly Macdonald) at her facility thinks she has a cure for Ida, and it involves said doctor being impregnated by Victor in order to use the genetic material. The film is generally episodic, with Victor’s adventures with his best friend, fellow sex-addict and colonial coworker Denny (Brad William Henke) giving way to flashbacks of Victor’s troubled childhood with the glue-sniffing, on-the-run Ida, from whom he’d get taken by the police and deposited in a foster home, only to get kidnapped back. There’s a flubbed bit about Victor’s possibly divine parentage, and the flashbacks become problematic â€” they never have the scale or coherence to get across what’s meant to be years filled with uncertainty and chaos and also excitement, and so Victor’s many issues don’t read as deserved or symptomatic. But Rockwell, who manages to be the most convincing sleazebag no woman can resist, can sell most anything, and brings a spark of grounded poignancy to the film despite its general aimless jokiness. Denny warns Victor that "You can’t fool people into loving you" as the two settle in for one of his Heimlich scams at a restaurant, but both the sex and the choking turn out to be ways of approximating just that.
"Choke" was acquired at the Sundance by Fox Searchlight
but a release date has yet to be set. and will be released August 1st, according to a recent announcement.
+ "Choke" (Sundance)