All Choked Up: Chuck Palahniuk Novel Hits The Big Screen


The first time I saw Fight Club, the wonderful, mind-fuck of a movie based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, I was so seriously enthralled and dumbfounded by the film, I somehow convinced myself that I’d just watched a brilliant work of science fiction. I’ve seen Fight Club a couple of times since then and I can’t really recall why I originally thought the film had a science fiction theme, since it’s really about a guy who’s either severely mentally ill or just an extreme sociopath (and maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive).

What made Fight Club so memorable, for me, was the insane originality and rich complexity of the plot. I figured Palahniuk had to be some kind of amazingly twisted writer to come up with most of the key plot devices in that film, because, seriously, who thinks of shit like stealing human fat to make soap? Secretly, I prayed that more of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels would be made into great, edgy films – and now my prayers have been answered!

Strip Club Scene from Choke
Brad William Henke and Sam Rockwell in Choke

Last night I attended an advance screening of the new comedy Choke, Sponsored by Radar Magazine as part of their Summer Solstice Screening Series. Based on Palahniuk’s popular novel of the same title. Choke stars Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) Angelica Huston and Kelly MacDonald (No Country For Old Men), and is directed by triple-threat actor/screenwriter/director Clark Gregg. You might know Gregg from his ongoing role as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s ex-husband in The New Adventures of Old Christine. In Choke, Rockwell plays Victor, a sex addicted colonial park tour guide whose mother (Huston) has been committed to a home for the mentally ill.

Victor also runs a little scam on the side, pretending to choke on his food while dining in restaurants, either to simply gain attention or to somehow score a monetary settlement from the restaurant. I don’t want to give away too much about the film because there are so many twists and turns on his completely hilarious, deeply psychological and outrageously sexual journey that I think it’s best seen with a “fresh head” – knowing as little in advance as possible. If you’ve read the novel, I understand that Gregg achieved a very faithful adaptation. I absolutely loved the movie. Choke is rated R for lots of sex, nudity and bad words, but who doesn’t love that?

After the screening, we were treated to a brief Q&A session with a Palahniuk, Gregg and Rockwell who answered a half dozen or so questions about how the film was made (on a very tight budget within a schedule of less than 30 days) and their personal experiences of working on the project. Thanks to Radar Magazine and additional sponsor, Belvedere Vodka, screening guests received a gift bag stuffed with a huge coffee table book of photography, a CD, a copy of Radar, a canned coffee drink, a sex toy and John Varvatos aftershave and cologne – not a bad haul for a free event!