January 24, 2008
Sundance. Choke."The adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel Choke had its world premiere as a part of the the dramatic competition [Monday] evening at the Sundance Film Festival, and a packed audience of 600-plus were treated to a film that mixed Palahniuk's dark and acid conceits with a playfully sardonic tone and some terrific acting and craft," writes the Oregonian's Shawn Levy. Updated through 1/30. "[I]t concerns the misadventures of Victor (Sam Rockwell), sex addict, scam artist, colonial re-enactor, and momma's boy," writes the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "There are as many laughs as gasps of calculated shock in Choke, and everything to do with Victor's job at a historical theme park is blitheringly funny. The film loses focus, though, and eventually it loses its nerve, although always entertainingly." "Palahniuk's blend of slapstick and social satire can play pretty heavy-handed on the page, but [director Clark] Gregg has transformed Choke into a light-hearted, filthy-minded farce loaded with delightful performances," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Rockwell slithers through the film with the self-mockery and self-loathing of a certified cad and lounge lizard, and Brad William Henke is especially good as his compulsive-masturbator best friend. (Don't miss Joel Grey, in a brief but marvelous cameo as the battered senior member of Rockwell's 12-step group.)" "Clark Gregg sets himself a formidable task for his first feature effort: Adapting the manic, farcical, disturbing world of lit cult idol Chuck Palahniuk," writes Dennis Harvey in Variety. "Palahniuk's antic absurdism is duly present, but the hurtling pace and barely-underlying nihilism that transferred to screen so vividly in Fight Club aren't much in evidence here.... To be sure, certain narrative ideas and verbal tropes will still tickle tome's fans and may strike the gamely uninitiated as uproarious." IndieWIRE interviews Gregg. Online viewing tip. Zoom In Online's "Meet the Artists" video with Gregg. Updates: "[A]fter a fantastically funny opening at a sex addict support meeting, Choke begins to slide, the gaps between laughs steadily grow and by film's end you're left wondering how something with so much potential could end up so ordinary," writes Steve Ramos at indieWIRE. "The performances are solid and kudos are in order to Gregg for directing a varied cast," writes Mike Raffensperger at Zoom In Online. "Rockwell nails the conflicted, tacitly hostile yet still lovably scruffy demeanor of Victor. Anjelica Huston who plays Ida, Victor's mother, embodies the ubiquitous eccentric aunt archetype perfectly but punches it up to just the right amount of crazy.... When all is said and done, Choke is an enjoyable, albeit twisted, romp birthed from the work of one of America's freshest and uniquely talented novelists. Apparently, Fox Searchlight agrees as they picked the film up for distribution for a cool $5 million." Update, 1/28: Online viewing tip. David Poland lunches with Rockwell and Huston. Update, 1/30: For the IFC's Alison Willmore, Choke "demonstrates that without an audacious filmmaker behind them, most of [Palahniuk's] ideas don't seem more remarkable than any in the average Sundance quirk-off. Not that Choke isn't amusing, salacious and halfway touching, but its elements of working in a colonial-themed tourist attraction, pretending to choke in restaurants so that strangers will take an interest in you and picking up women at sex-addition group meetings do blend into the festival's other offerings of abused agoraphobic porn addicts and orphaned professional suicide note writers."
Posted by dwhudson at January 24, 2008 9:22 AM