Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Obama, Rezko, McCain | The End of an Era on Madison »

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Insert Choke Pun Here

posted by on June 5 at 15:50 PM


In last week’s Constant Reader, I wrote an open letter to Chuck Palahniuk, including a little bit about his fourth novel, Choke:

I liked your first three novels quite a bit—Survivor, Fight Club, and Invisible Monsters, I thought, made kind of a trilogy of ridiculous, and somehow bighearted, American nihilism—and while your next novel, Choke, was a misfire akin to other novelists’ sophomore slump, you were clearly trying to struggle free from the cynicism that had enveloped your work. You were trying to grow.

I saw the film adaptation of Choke yesterday, and my review is here. The movie is such a studious adaptation of the novel that people who loved the book are sure to at least find the movie inoffensive, if not great. The weirdest part of the whole thing is the casting: Anjelica Huston seems too young to be a woman suffering from dementia in the present-day bits, but she seems too old to be a mother of a young boy in the flashbacks. And Sam Rockwell looks too old to be a passive young man working at a Colonial Williamsburg-type park.

The person I really feel the worst for in all this is Rockwell; he’s finally turned out a bland performance. I’ve absolutely loved him in everything he’s ever done—even Charlie’s Angels, for crying out loud—but this role, which should be perfect for him, is a flop.

There are great scenes that will please fans of the book by how closely they hew to the novel. Lascivious male viewers will find all the breasts and sex scenes they could ever want in a mainstream American movie. But it doesn’t work, put all together. and the soundtrack—so generic that I can’t even describe it, really, it just sounds like every generic independent film of the last ten years—doesn’t work at all.

Choke screens tonight and on Saturday afternoon.

RSS icon Comments


"Lascivious male viewers will find all the breasts and sex scenes they could ever want in a mainstream American movie."

jeez, guy, your fear &/or hatred of sex comes out of nearly every post. would some generous seattle lady please fuck paul constant?

Posted by max solomon | June 5, 2008 4:15 PM

Paul Constant has a girlfriend, max, and when she's not giving him action she's fighting crime.

Posted by Mr. Poe | June 5, 2008 4:21 PM

Too young for dementia?

Not really. If it's drug-induced, 40's is not too unusual in some cases, if it's otherwise, some people get Alzheimer's in their 40's (early onset AD). Kind of sad, tho.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 5, 2008 4:24 PM

All (well, most) reviews should be as short and to the point.

Posted by shub-negrorath | June 5, 2008 6:10 PM

Pahlaniuk is a stage hipster illiterates go through. Choke was a POS novel. I'm sure the movie will be true to it.

Posted by Bob | June 5, 2008 6:50 PM

I read Choke a couple of weeks ago. Was the scene in the beginning describing the sex addicts workshop in some other movie? Maybe Fight Club? Because I'd never touched the book before, but I knew the whole chapter and I couldn't figure out why.

Posted by amy! | June 5, 2008 7:15 PM

I will always describe Palheniuk as the smarmy (and, thus, low-rent) and privileged love-child of Bret Easton Ellis (is that even possible?) and j.g. ballard. I hate his writing style. But, they may make good trranslations, as Fight Club did.

Posted by TheMisanthrope | June 5, 2008 7:26 PM


Yes. It's very similar to the group therapy [Jack] attends in Fight Club, up until the bathroom fuck. The entire style of Choke reeked of Fight Club in all the wrong ways.

Posted by Mr. Poe | June 5, 2008 7:38 PM

early onset Alzheimer's isn't that uncommon.

Posted by stinkbug | June 5, 2008 8:40 PM


You were far too nice of a reviewer for this movie. Except for the rape scene, the movie is Palahniuk retold with the tone of Garden State. And, at 89 minutes, the time just flew by at the pace of a 5 hour plane ride next to a chronically depressed person who insists on telling you their life story.

Except for the rape scene. That was funny.

Posted by TheMisanthrope | June 6, 2008 12:07 AM

It wasn't that bad, and I had no problems with the casting. However, the performances were rather listless, and any number of directors could have done a better job with the material. Why this went from a recommended movie in SIFF Notes to the Paul Constant pile-on is beyond me.

But what is up with all the heavy-handed security at the Egyptian last night? Do we really need $8/hour rent-a-cops with binoculars roaming through the crowd and barking at people to turn off their cell phones? If FOX Searchlight is that paranoid about the movie being leaked, maybe it shouldn't be included at SIFF.

Posted by Mr_Friendly | June 6, 2008 9:58 AM

@1 - there were lots of breast and sex scenes in La France but that didn't make it better - why should that help with Choke?

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 6, 2008 10:29 AM

@10 - in the 70's or 80's no, not uncommon, but in the 40's yes it is.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 6, 2008 10:34 AM

I kind of liked Choke. But it was my first experience with Chuck. After Lullaby, which I also liked, I've had enough of him.

Posted by M | June 6, 2008 12:08 PM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.