Saturday, September 27, 2008

Choking Relaxation

The wife and I have had an active yet relaxing weekend so far. Last night after work, we went to a bar to watch the debates, the event being an Obama fundraiser. I have yet to decide who to vote for on Election Day (I'm not keeping my options to the major two parties, either), and I don't intend on announcing it to the public.

Interesting, though, to watch a debate amongst a partisan crowd. Had a hard time hearing McCain near the end with the crowd hissing and sneering at McCain while talking.

This morning, we woke up early to jump on the bus to get downtown and meet an out-of-town friend at The Original Pancake House. I didn't go too adventurous with my food choices, but they didn't have too many choices for a vegetarian that doesn't do dairy. Nothing too exciting for me, but their featuring apples on pancakes in the menu looked interesting.

Parting ways with our friend, we decided to check out a matinee of Choke. We, rather, decided to check out a matinee and figured Choke made for an interesting option and gave us enough time to settle into the theater before the 20 minutes of previews started.

I have a limited exposure to Chuck Palahniuck, the writer of the novel. I've seen Fight Club but haven't read the novel. I went with the wife to a Palahniuck reading at The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA from a compilation of non-fiction he had published.

Choke doesn't reach the level of grandness, political/financial commentary or even of plot as Fight Club. Neither does Choke have the gross out factor of Stranger than Fiction: True Stories. The movie sticks to a small, personal scale. It shows some boobs, characters make some off-color sexualized comments, they have some neutered sex scenes and the movie centers around a sex addict attending a support group for sex addicts.

Choke doesn't have a conventional and linear plot. It centers more around the theme of loneliness and the habits that people follow to protect their vulnerable inner selves. Victor, the sexually-addicted main character, pretty much attends the sex addicts support group, works at a colonial era living museum, visits his mother suffering from alzheimers in a rest home and hangs out with his fellow sex addict friend. Then, one day, he meets Paige, a friend of Victor's mom. Victor's journey of "redemption," growth and revealing flashbacks starts from there but doesn't end when the movie does, whence Victor possibly even regressed back to where he started.

I haven't read any reviews, but by the progress of the plot and the movie's ending, I can understand what I've heard about bad reviews. The movie provides more of a character study than a plot, per se. The movies follows Victor's discovery of his loneliness and his habits to protect his vulnerable self. His best friend also makes his own discoveries and follows his own path of growth. Memories that Victor has about his mom and comments made by his mom provide some interesting revelations about Victor and also some quirky situations.

In the long run, Choke doesn't deliver the expected, conventional payoff. I have no problem with the undesired end, unlike, I'm expecting most of the other people who see this movie. Solving this dissatisfaction requires the audience to adhere to the belief in value of the journey is in the journey, not in reaching the goal. I can't be 100% sure, but the movie has enough coherent facts to make the ending true on the level of probability to Victor's character.

Choke works for me because of the themes it explores and the sincerity in which it explores them. Some of the characters have outlandish qualities that make them interesting and sometimes amusing oddities rather than realistic, but Victor's vulnerabilities make him very human and relatable. Most of us don't reach the pathological levels of protecting ourselves from emotional pain and embarrassment, but we all feel vulnerable to other people hurting us.

A normal person in a normal situation wouldn't provide the insight into our vulnerable sides. We all have normal habits that we all accept as regular behavior. Indoctrination into our society through family, school and other institutions teach us the etiquette we need not only to protect ourselves, but sometimes also to protect the other people around us, for their benefit and our benefit. Of course, protecting ourselves and others in these ways can be maladaptive emotionally and psychologically. Following someone pathologically protecting themselves with these types of habits shows us that we all protect ourselves. . .especially when they're protecting the same thing that we are.

Most reviewers and movie goers won't like Choke. They ostensibly won't like it because of unlikeable characters or even an unconventional plot. Maybe, though, people could have a problem with the movie because it shows them just how vulnerable they are. I bet no one will admit it, though.

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