Choke (The Novel vs The Film)
So, after a few years of wondering, I finally listened to the audiobook of Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke," a literary mashup of a man’s torment by his dysfunctional relationship with his mother that transcended him to dysfunctional relationships with women in general.
—Mild Spoilers to Both the Novel and Film—
Meet Victor Mancini, the poster child for dysfunctional adulthood. He's a sex addict who works at a colonial-era theme park, pretending to “choke” on his food to con good Samaritans into saving him so he can pay for his mother’s expensive medical and mental healthcare bills. The dude is like the superhero of self-destructive behavior. His life is a masterclass in how not to adult, “what would Jesus NOT do,” and he's proud of it. Victor's mother, Ida, is in a nursing home, battling dementia and revealing some shocking family secrets. As Victor grapples with his mother's deteriorating mind, the story unveils some mind-bending truths that you'll either love or hate.
Victor's support group for sex addicts is where all the fun and games really begin. Picture a room full of people with more quirks than a circus sideshow but look every bit of living in a real circus. As Victor navigates this motley crew of misfits, you'll find yourself questioning what it means to be "normal," what normal may be, and whether any of us really fit that mold or not. "Choke" challenges societal norms and questions what it means to be human in a world where our quirks and flaws are laid bare for all to see. It's dark, it's funny, and it's bound to leave you with more questions than answers. Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke" is a provocative, twisted, and unapologetically raw exploration of the human condition. It's a journey through the absurdity of life, where Victor Mancini's self-destructive sexcapades serve as a mirror reflecting our own flaws and quirks.
The 2008 film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke," directed by Clark Gregg; best known for portraying Agent Phil Coulson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Iron Man/Avengers films) and starring Sam Rockwell, follows the general plot and themes of the novel. There are instances where it follows very closely to the book. However, some of the characters like Denny and their arcs are much different in the film over the novel. These secondary characters are major points in the book where they are dummied down or paraphrased in the film, if mentioned at all. There are a number subplots that are not explored in the film or are heavily abbreviated. The inner monologs, while used in the film, are not nearly as dominant as they are in the book. The inner monologs in the book are the center point of the story. They are used heavily in the “FIGHT CLUB” film adaption and a center-point to the plot of the film. In “Choke” they are used to a much lesser degree. “Choke” the novel; is told as inner thoughts over the film that tries to bring a three-act structure to what would be random inner thoughts of scenes played out in a person’s life. The book has no story structure like a movie where there is a beginning, middle and end. The book is much more random how it tells the story. The Ending of the film is completely different than the novel. The movie takes a more straightforward dark-humor, love-story approach and provides a more optimistic and conclusive “happily-ever after” ending for Victor and Paige. In the book it is much more uncertain and dark about their future as she was a mental patient and not a doctor as she claimed.
In the book she claims to be a time traveler from the year 2556 and needs to get pregnant to bring the unborn child to the future. However in the film, she was a med student like Victor that ended up having a nervous breakdown when she got her first B in school. She self-checked into the hospital and her plot is completely different from that of the book. The revelation about Victor's true identity and Ida's manipulating Victor his entire life from since he was a small boy is heavily downplayed in the movie. It is in there, but it isn’t as important as it is in the book. In the book it is clear she is nuts about a lot of things, but it is never centered upon as to what is actually wrong with her. Her having mental issues isn’t really important outside that she has mental problems. The specifics of those mental problems are not very important to Victor’s journey in the confines of the story. Merely that they are there and have affected him as he grew up.
The movie is solid. It’s more understandable as a story. The book really hashes out how FK’d up Victor really is. That, most of his problems are dummied down in the movie over the film or have more dark humor tone to them. The book is much darker than the film, but the film is a great dark satire of the source material from the novel. It’s a good watch, but if you want to know the ins and outs of the characters; the novel serves this better…
Is it a Good Watch Though?
I thought so... I saw it once when it came out in 2008 and once 11/3/2023. Both watches were good. Now that I read the book though I think the movie is less as far as telling its story but it’s still good. It’s still very much worth a watch. Just the movie is more a dark-humored twisted love story where the book is more a commentary about the subject of love of a man that has serious mommy issues and is trying to gain some closure as his mother is dying.
I guess you can say the story, in general, is a coming of age tale, but told from a very FK’d up person, in a really messed up situation…