by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

"Even the worst blowjob is better than smelling the greatest rose or watching the greatest sunset."

Choke is a film based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club. Some of the Fight Club cultists found this film disappointing. Their negative reactions are astounding. People argued that it was too frothy and romantic. Mind you, this is a book that ridicules just about anything people hold dear or sacred: religion, personal development, childhood trauma, recovery from addiction, and love.

And people found it too warm.

Man, those Chuck Palahniuk fans are hard to please.

It's a story about ... well, it's complicated. Our hero has some psychological problems brought on by his odd childhood with a mom who is a con-artist and not a little bit loony. He's a sex addict. He fakes choking regularly so that he can get people to save him. He likes the outpouring of love that his saviors lavish on him, and he also likes the money they almost invariably contribute after he lays a sob story on them. Since he's basically drifting through life aimlessly, his profession is not much of a profession at all. He dresses up like an 18th century American colonist at one of those historical re-enactment exhibits.

His life is further complicated by the fact that his mother is dying and lapsing into senile dementia, but he remains a dutiful son, visiting her regularly, and using all of the money from his choking scam to provide her with proper care. The visits are challenging, to say the least, since mom does not recognize him, so he has to play whatever role her current delusions assign him. His mother's mental fog is especially frustrating since he would like her to regain clarity long enough to tell him who his father is. He finds out that she has written a diary, but it's in Italian, so he needs a translator - enter the love interest. The identity of his father is a shocker. It's God. It seems that his Italian mother cloned him from a sacred Catholic relic - the foreskin of Jesus. Since he is a clone, in effect, he is Jesus. Or so it seems.

In addition to all that, there are numerous flashback scenes about his childhood, there is a sub-plot about his roommate's burgeoning relationship with a stripper, there are minor subplots within the colonial re-enactment community, and there is a completely unnecessary encounter with another sex addict who wants our man to fulfill her rape fantasy in an extremely specific (and deflating) way.

That sounds like a lot to cover, doesn't it? It is. In fact, it's too much.

I can see why the screenwriter was tempted to include all those elements from the book, because it's all good stuff, and there are great lines and memorable set-pieces within each scenario except the childhood flashbacks. They needed to go away altogether. The childhood scenes were an integral part of the book, which concludes with one of them, but in the film they just seem like distractions from the story. Worse still, they are boring, and Angelica Huston's "youth" make-up is neither flattering nor convincing. But apart from those flashbacks, the material is all quite amusing, and the actor Sam Rockwell sells it all beautifully.

Unfortunately, the resulting whole is less than the sum of its parts. Anarchic, free-wheeling techniques which work beautifully on paper don't always render well on celluloid, as you know if you're still waiting for a great movie to come from the works of Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut. A film like this has only about 90 minutes to tell a story, involve us in characters, deliver its emotional punch, make us laugh, and make some kind of point. This particular film needs a tighter focus.

I enjoyed it anyway. Sure it's not Fight Club, but Rockwell and the other actors have some great comic timing, the film is filled with Palahniuk's zingers, and the character development can be poignant. I didn't mind at all that the film added a small amount of redemption towards the end. I don't really agree with the hardcore Fight Club fans who wanted something darker. In my opinion a minuscule dash of hope made the film a little more accessible than what might have resulted from a literal interpretation of the book's ambiguous ending, and the screenwriter didn't slather on hope like an Obama speech, which would have been grating. A little dab of it seemed to work just fine.

In fact, I have to say that I liked the film quite a bit. It has its flaws, but its virtues are greater. I was moved at times, and I laughed out loud quite often. What the hell else does one need from a film?


Widescreen anamorphic


2.5 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
2.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
55 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
47 (of 100)


7.1 IMDB summary (of 10)
B Yahoo Movies


Box Office Mojo. It grossed less than $3 million, maxxing out around 430 theaters.


Answer to my own question at the end of the review: "It needs nudity, dude."


One scene takes place in Sam Rockwell's head as he imagines Bijou Phillips nude. He pictures three different breast sizes. One of the three may be Bijou, or all three may be anonymous.

Paz de la Huerta gets it on with Rockwell. She keeps most of the best stuff covered, but you can still see most of her bum.

Gillian Jacobs shows breasts as the stripper who becomes the love interest for Sam's roommate.

Alice Barrett is topless as the anonymous lavatory sex lady.

There is a random old woman with enormous breasts.

Susanne Shepherd shows her breasts in a sex scene.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


A reasonably funny black comedy with some warm moments.