Dir: Clark Gregg
I’m still amazed to this day that, not only did someone manage to adapt Fight Club into a film, they did it brilliantly. If you’re brave enough to adapt a Chuck Palahniuk novel into a film, you have to do it right, if you cant, you need to walk away. As much as I’d love to see the novels Invisible Monsters and Survivor made into films I honestly don’t think its possible to do so authentically. I love the novel Snuff but I don’t think anyone would really want to see that made into a film, the very thought of it makes me feel a little queasy, as much as I enjoyed it. Choke is probably one of the more obvious choices for an adaptation but I’m not sure those involved pulled it off as successfully as they could have. They certainly got the casting right with Sam Rockwell utterly convincing as main character Victor Mancini and Anjelica Huston, who certainly wouldn’t have been my first choice, as Ida, Victor’s mother. The story is about Victor Mancini, a reformed sex addict who works as a re-enactor of life in Colonial America – a colonial theme park in New Jersey. He works and shares an apartment with his best friend, Denny (played by Brad William Henke), who is also a reformed sex addict. To pay for his mother’s Alzheimer's disease hospital bills, Victor cons diners by intentionally choking at restaurants to get money from his rescuers, by keeping a detailed list of everyone who saves him and sending them frequent letters about fictional bills he is unable to pay. The people feel so sorry for him that they send him cards and letters asking him about how he is doing, and continue to send him money to help him with the bills. When he visits his mother one day, he meets Dr Paige Marshall (played by Kelly Macdonald), who takes care of her. She tells Victor that his mother's condition is worsening and that they could try an experimental stem cell technique that would require harvesting cells from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby with Victor's genes. She convinces Victor to have sex with her so she can have his child and save his mother. Victor never knew his father and is anxious to obtain the information from his mother, but she never recognizes him when he visits. He asks Denny to pose as him and ask her questions. Denny agrees and reveals that Victor's mother kept a diary. Victor finds it, but it is in Italian. Paige tells Victor she can read Italian and agrees to translate the diary. Victor and Paige try several times to have sex, but Victor cannot maintain an erection. After discussing it with Denny, he realizes he loves Paige. She then reveals to him that his mother may have fled Italy because she stole Jesus' foreskin, and used its cells to conceive Victor, making him the Second Coming. He is reluctant to believe but, in the end, accepts Paige's assertion. However, his mother finally recognizes him and tells him that she stole him as a baby and she has no idea who his birth parents are. As she tells him this, he feeds her chocolate pudding and accidentally chokes her to death. While Paige tries to resuscitate Victor's mother, a hidden band around her wrist falls into Victor's view, revealing that she is a patient in the hospital and not a doctor after all. Paige then reveals that she was admitted to the hospital years ago, in a catatonic state, and fell in love with Victor through the stories his mother told her about him. As she was a former medical student, the nurses allowed her to wear a white coat, as it calmed her down. Paige, a voluntary patient, checks herself out without saying goodbye to Victor. After his mother's funeral, Victor boards a plane. He goes to the bathroom and the door opens to reveal Paige joining him. Only half of what we see in the film actually happens in the book. Chuck Palahniuk sold the rights to Choke following the success of Fight Club and Clark Gregg (now famous for his role as Phil Coulson, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D) fought for the opportunity to direct it based on a writing assignment he had written on it years before. Gregg worked for five years on a script, trying to adapt it faithfully. In the end he decided to write his personal version of the story, believing that it would be one that Chuck Palahniuk would oppose. However, much to Gregg's surprise, the author liked and supported the departures made in his updated version and the film was a go, with Palahniuk even making a cameo appearance. It’s a nice film, I enjoyed it very much, but it isn’t a true Palahniuk story and I think that’s the problem I have with it. It’s a little to lite and comical in places where it really should have been dark and about the twisted relationship between a boy and his mother. Gregg later stated that he wanted to shift the tone of the story to be somewhere between Hal Ashby’s Being There and Harold and Maude, and more recent films like Secretary and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I really didn’t feel that to be the case at all, it’s not badly directed but its nothing special. For me it was all about the lead performances, which are more than enough to make it an enjoyable dark comedy.