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One Reader’s Review From A Festival Screening Of CHOKE!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Every reaction I’ve read to this one is totally different. A lot of times, films build a sort of critical mass, and you can get a good sense of what to expect by the time they’re finished with the festival circuit and they’re in theaters. But with this one... it’s still anyone’s guess, and here’s one more opinion to add to the stack:

Long time reader, first attempt at contributing. I just got back from an advance screening of “Choke” directed by Clark Gregg which screened at the Minneapolis International Film Fest.. As you all probably know ”Choke” is based on the Chuck Palahniuk book and it stars Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston, as well as Kelly Macdonald who you’ll recognise as Llewelyn Moss’ wife from “No Country for Old Men”. I’ve been a reader of Palahniuk for some time now and I always thought his writing would not lend itself to the silver screen. It’s not so much his style, it’s his substance that often stretches from the unusually insane to the insanely unusual. “Fight Club” worked on that it was its own beast, and Fincher reinvented Palahniuk’s universe and populated it with great actors and amazing set pieces. But for anyone whose read the book, there is no way they could have pulled off the last chapter which ends basically with Tyler Durden talking with god in heaven. It’s these kinds of Palahniuk notions that translate from the written word directly into your imagination and in my opinion don’t leave much room for re-interpretation on the big screen. Thus Fincher made the right move and left it out of “Fight Club”. “Choke” is my favorite Palahniuk book, and I was hesitant that I would see a watered down version of the story or a weak attempt at another “Fight Club”. Not just any story can feature Jesus’ foreskin as a central plot device and not come across as merely trying to be irreverent or shocking for its own sake. That said, I was kinda disappointed. On the screen I just kept thinking about that South Park episode where the kids discover that Family Guy plots are just constructed randomly from a collection of “wacky” ideas. The “wacky” ideas in the movie seemed really clever in the book. Colonial Re-creationist, Sex Addict, Scam Artist, pretending to choke so people will save him and feel invested in his life; Sam Rockwell is genuinely funny in some of these situations, but the initial gag runs out pretty fast. There are some well acted scenes with Rockwell and Huston, but Macdonald seems to only have one facial expression and one tone of voice. Although it let me down a little, it’s still better than 95% of the Hollywood garbage, and worth the short hour and a half. I always hated those dicks that say after a movie adaption of a book, “Well the books so much better.” But I might be that dick this time around. Well at least there’s tons of T&A, even old nuns showing some skin, and a kinda tricky twist towards the end, but it just left me with that “ho-hum” feeling. If you use this, call me The Mza
Readers Talkback
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  • April 28, 2008, 8:26 a.m. CST

    I Like the Concept

    by William Ashbless

    And it sounds pretty darkly funny. So I'm kinda looking foward to it. Not too much, but I want to check it out...maybe on DVD.

  • April 28, 2008, 8:27 a.m. CST


    by Zeegloo

    I wonder if a Lullaby movie would be any good... Hmmm...

  • April 28, 2008, 8:32 a.m. CST

    Anyone seen my dad?

    by Bastard Son of Superman

  • April 28, 2008, 9:16 a.m. CST

    You know what would suck?

    by Monkey Butler

    A Haunted film. Because if Choke is the family guy manatees, Haunted is manatee shit on the bottom of the tank.

  • April 28, 2008, 9:32 a.m. CST

    even worse than that, monkey butler...

    by vaudeville villain

    would be a Rant film. the third act alone of that film would be, i guess, month-old manatee shit on the bottom of an algae-infested tank.

  • April 28, 2008, 9:39 a.m. CST

    Last Chapter of Fight Club Impossible to Film?

    by Jack Shepherd

    Mza, you've got the last chapter of Fight Club all wrong. If I remember correctly, the narrator has completely lost his mind and isn't talking to God but to a doctor in a mental hospital. (I seem to recall something about "all of God's diplomas on the wall," etc.) At any rate, there wasn't anything especially tricky about this ending; Fincher could have shot it, it just wouldn't have been as ambiguous as the one he used.

  • April 28, 2008, 9:45 a.m. CST


    by Series7

    I am a big Chuck fan. Big enough that its one of the few things of recent times I've felt let down about. Especially with Haunted. Took me a while to get into Rant, but I really dug it at the end. I think it would lend itself to be a good movie. Done as a documentary though like the book. I mean people bitching about the end of the book, its just like every documentary ever made. Where there are no conclusions and usually the last 1/3 of every documentary is just people guessing or theorizing anyway. I liked Choke and I feel that Sam Rockwell is the perfect choice for the role. Though Choked always felt like the shitty little brother to Fight Club, and this is what this movie is probably going to turn out to be. Hopefully they stay away from turning Survivor and Invisible Monsters into movies. Unless they are given to someone with Fincher like abilities. Because Fight Club is Chucks worst book and probably, next to Requieme as one of the few better then the book movies out there. Though as I am reading Purfume (only got the last 1/3 left) that is a really good book to movie translation so far, took out the middle section of the book which was pretty useless anyway.

  • April 28, 2008, 9:50 a.m. CST

    Hated the book but loved the movie

    by Lovecraftfan

    Saw it at Sundance and definitely one of my favorite films there.

  • April 28, 2008, 9:53 a.m. CST

    Palahnuik is awful

    by Laserhead

    and an outed homosexual, which certainly casts Fight Club in a different light.

  • April 28, 2008, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Why does it matter that he's gay?

    by CarmillaVonDoom

    Laserhead, have you ever written anything on this site that doesn't out YOU as a DOUCHEBAG?

  • April 28, 2008, 10:06 a.m. CST

    It matters because

    by Laserhead

    the entire subtext of Fight Club and his 'transgressive' writings can be seen in a new, and actually more definitive light. The dude's a bad writer by any estimation; it's just that his guarded homosexuality (emphasis on 'guarded'; like a secret identity, like, um, Tyler Durden) kind of turns Fight Club into Freudian parody. I think the only guys I've criticized on this site are Frank Miller and Palahnuik. So if thinking Frank Miller and Chuck Palahnuik are crap writers whose work is a string of cliches and idiotic philosophical postures, whose audience consists of perpetual adolescents, then yep, I'm outed as a douchebag. And you're outed as a moron.

  • April 28, 2008, 10:13 a.m. CST

    Salon review

    by Laserhead

    says quite cogently everything that's stupid about Palahnuik's writing, so rather than quote it, I'll just post a link, and you can argue with it:

  • April 28, 2008, 10:37 a.m. CST

    Jack Shepherd

    by BGDAWES

    You're right. I was just about to make that correction as well. In the final paragraph the narrator is sent back to his room in the mental hospital and a male nurse let's him know project mayhem is still going strong. <br> <br> Personally, I prefer Fincher's ending and so does Chuck P. (or so I've read). <br> <br> Choke was actually my favorite novel of his so I hope this is decent. I should re-read the book. At least Rockwell is 'perfect' casting.

  • April 28, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST

    Lullaby is Great

    by Jack Shepherd

    Lullaby is my favorite Palahniuk book, but Haunted and Rant aren't bad either. And who gives a shit if Palahniuk's gay or not? It's 100% irrelevant to this discussion or any "interpretation" of his books.

  • April 28, 2008, 11:17 a.m. CST

    My wife got a care package from Chuck

    by Shigeru

    complete with personal letter and a stuffed animal "POWER CARDINAL". <br><br> Diary would make an interesting flick.

  • April 28, 2008, 11:20 a.m. CST

    We are in agreement on Frank Miller

    by CarmillaVonDoom

    Sorry to get personal with that last post; the negativity around here towards homosexuality in general is just getting VERY irritating. I've only read Lullaby, so I guess I shouldn't get into a debate about Palahniuk.

  • April 28, 2008, 11:22 a.m. CST

    Clive Barker is a good example...

    by CarmillaVonDoom

    ...of a writer whose older stuff can be looked at in a different light after he came out, so I will step right up and admit I was out of line.

  • April 28, 2008, 11:50 a.m. CST


    by supertoyslast

    If any of that T&A belongs to Kelly MacDondald, then I'm there. God, she was hot in the Peter Pan outfit in Finding Neverland.

  • April 28, 2008, 11:52 a.m. CST

    survivour would make a great movie

    by ironic_name

    as long as you had the real ending after the credits.

  • a pretentious asshole. And that in no way negates any of the criticism the reviewer levelled at his terrible, terrible books. I have absolutely nothing against homosexuals, I just think it's interesting that a writer who presumes a kind of 'tough-guy' posture, and writes a book about man-love expressed in secret, through physical violence, would go to some length to hide his homosexuality from the public. Then, afraid an EW article was going to out him, he posted his admission of sexual orientation on his website. When the issue never outed him, he took the admission down.

  • April 28, 2008, noon CST

    that should say 'labeling someone' not 'la'

    by Laserhead

  • April 28, 2008, 12:17 p.m. CST

    Kelly MacDondald was Peter Pan

    by Shigeru

    In Finding Neverland? Holy shit I've never wanted to bone such an androgenous person more then when I saw that scene.

  • April 28, 2008, 12:19 p.m. CST

    Chuck's sexual orientation

    by Shigeru

    Ever think... it DOESN'T REALLY MATTER? Yeah if you want to write thesis essays critiquing him but to the average person buying and reading his book it doesn't and certainly shouldn't matter. So don't blame the dude for not printing "I'M A FLAMING GAY WHO LOVES DICK" on the cover of all his books.

  • April 28, 2008, 12:24 p.m. CST

    And his homosexuality does cast Fight Club in a different light

    by Shigeru

    But a good and interesting one. It says something that a gay dude wrote the definitive novel about emasculated men overcompensating for it. <br><br> Go ahead and hate his writing, but to bring up his homosexuality like it's some dirty little secret is fucked.

  • April 28, 2008, 12:31 p.m. CST

    it's true.

    by Shigeru

    I saw him speak once.... tough guy he was not.

  • April 28, 2008, 12:43 p.m. CST

    The WRITING assumes a tough-guy posture

    by Laserhead

    You know. You know the staccato sentences. You know how they repeat. How they try. Try to hit you. How they avoid sentiment. How they dwell on blood and guts. You don't need to read Salon to get a cogent review of why he's a bad writer (and I don't), that one just came easily to hand because I remembered the ruckus it started when it first appeared, while at the same time thinking the reviewer was dead on. Node- go fuck yourself, you illiterate douche; you can't actually, articulately defend the man's crap writing, it's phoney, idiotic philosophical posturing, so you have to take shots at me for, um, reading Salon. The worldview and 'issues' of Palahnuik's work are about as intelligent and sophisticated as those of a mildly educated 12-year-old. Poseur nihilism for sub-literates, written in one of the most gratingly phony stylistic voices in modern American fiction.

  • April 28, 2008, 12:44 p.m. CST

    And Shigeru, it's your buddy Chuck

    by Laserhead

    who treated his sexual orientation like it was a dirty little secret, not me.

  • April 28, 2008, 1:15 p.m. CST

    I've read Fight Club and Survivor

    by Laserhead

    trying to parse out his popularity. Both books are pretty awful. I also read something like 100 pages of Diary before putting it down. I don't get any information from tabloids, I was just trying to find out what might be the root of his success, and I was genuinely searching for something admirable in his writing. Then I understood that like 'Dancing with the Stars' or W, his popularity was rooted in his appeals to idiocy.

  • April 28, 2008, 1:29 p.m. CST


    by Laserhead

    Before you ask, to continue the 'idiotic philosophical posturing' argument (and this from me, not Salon, Node); in what I've read, he consistently casts himself as a novelist of 'ideas': ideas about culture, masculinity, the body, etc. But the ideas illustrated in his books are routinely facile, childish, and overlaid with a puerile sexual anxiety, all conveyed in one of the most obnoxious and simplistic prose styles I think I've ever read. In his books the chief conflict seems to be someone with a grudge against society/culture because they presumed that society/culture guaranteed them something (a fulfilling lifestyle, a viable definition of masculinity, etc.), and then, when culture doesn't provide them with this (though it was the character who assumed culture must fulfill them), they manufacture tons of righteous indignation, fulminate and strike back at society in nonsensical ways. But their entire motivating force is fundamentally childish; i.e., 'I thought the world was going to be one way and it's not.' (Welcome to existence. Grow the fuck up.) That these ideas are obviously taken seriously by the author and his readers as some kind of harsh 'truth' is indicative of how low our standards have become. Because there's no truth in any of his books that I've read. In Fight Club, a bunch of guys who feel emasculated by 'modern society' decide the answer to their problems is fascism. This is idiotic. Especially when it was the characters who emasculated themselves because they lacked the nerve and insight to choose alternative lives. Not to mention the idiocy of the kind of 'pranks' the members pull as 'strikes against society', pranks which accomplish nothing whatsoever except to bolster their egos. In this way, and in the central conflict of the story, a narcissistic viewpoint becomes apparent. On top of that, there's that awful, posturing prose style. Now before you say, 'Hey, you don't like his stuff, yet you read two of his books-- what the?!?' I read those books out of curiosity and an abiding interest in American letters. Sometimes you have to wade through a lot of shit to find the diamonds. I put Palahnuik in the shit pile.

  • April 28, 2008, 1:32 p.m. CST

    And it's perfectly reasonable

    by Laserhead

    to judge a writer based on two or three works. You don't have to digest someone's entire canon to form an educated opinion on them. Have you listened to every album by every band you ever formed an opinion about?

  • April 28, 2008, 1:32 p.m. CST

    obnoxious simplistic prose styles

    by dr sauch

  • April 28, 2008, 1:38 p.m. CST

    by the way

    while everyone's in a good mood, I'd like to change the subject by suggesting everyone encourage Harry to promote a petition for saving Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" instead of waiting a year & a half for the studio version. Thank you very much.

  • April 28, 2008, 2 p.m. CST



    Its kind of fussy in here.

  • April 28, 2008, 2 p.m. CST

    Where the Wild Things Are

    by Laserhead

    I think Harry DID try to summon up a petition, or something. He had an article about what the studio was trying to do to the film and begging them not to. You might have to search for it. Node-- almost vomitted in your mouth because I used the adjective 'abiding'? Too bad. Maybe one day I'll eat at whatever restaurant you bus tables at, and you can piss in my soup. Yay, Project Mayhem!

  • April 28, 2008, 2:37 p.m. CST


    by Tender Branson411

    Sounds like someone wants to be popular like Chuck P. but is reduced talkback banter

  • April 28, 2008, 4:05 p.m. CST

    Laughed My Ass Off During "Fight Club"

    by thelordofhell

    Hoping "Choke" is just as unintentially funny as "Fight Club". This should be the best comedy movie of the year until "The Fountainhead" comes out.

  • April 29, 2008, 1:48 a.m. CST

    I've read the first paragraph and I already know the reviewer is

    by silentbobafett2

    Ooooh I've read a book! I've read a book! Fight Clubs ok for the plebs that have seen the film, but for those elite few like me who have read the book... oooh aren't we in on something great!