Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Why do I get the feeling that I made a mistake by not re-reading the book before I saw the movie? Choke (the book), came out about seven years ago, so, it has obviously been a while since I've read it. There in lie's the problem with this review - I can't really review it based on the merits of the book, since I don't really remember that much about the book (except that I thought it was a lot weirder and more perverse than the film was...)

Choke follows Victor Mancini (played by Sam Rockwell), a medical school drop out, who pays for his ailing mother's nursing home bills by working as a "historical recreationist", and by conning people by choking at a restaurant and getting them to save his life. Then, when they follow up with him, he gives them a sob story, and they send him some money to "help him out". He's also a sex addict, who met his best friend, Denny (played by Brad Henke), in a group therapy session. They also happen to work at the same recreated Colonial settlement. When Victor's mom's health really starts to fail, though, he enlists Denny's help, and the help of a new young doctor Paige Marshall (played by Kelly McDonald) to find out the secrets of his past, after his mother reveals to him that the story she had told him was a lie.

So, because I haven't read the book in a long time, and don't have time to read it now, let's try to look at the film on its own merits. The performances in Choke were solid. I thought Sam Rockwell did a great job, as always, Anjelica Huston, as Victor's mother, is always a pleasure to watch. The one performance that surprised me, though, was Kelly McDonald as Paige Marshall. She seemed so wooden, and maybe that's what she was going for, but, I've seen much better come out of McDonald, so, why she would choose the direction she did comes as a little bit of a shock to me. Maybe it was a lack of direction, I don't know. The film was directed by Clark Gregg, a long time actor, but first time director. He may have let McDonald have a little too much room on this one.

The film, though... It left me feeling like there was a lot lacking. It didn't feel raw or cutting edge at all, though I don't particularly remember if the book did either... It felt like a really simple story that was wrapped in this idea that it was a little dirty and a little fun, but didn't really end up being either. There were funny moments, but the film fell kind of flat most of the time. Tim Orr's cinematography gave it a nice 70's look, and the soundtrack was cool, but, for the most part, Choke is one of those films that I'm glad I saw, but I probably wouldn't watch it again.

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