This film is an adaptation of the book by Chuck Palahniuk of ‘Fight Club’ fame and it’s a book that I have actually read, although admittedly a long time ago now! The novel concerns Victor Mancini and is written very much inside his head as we follow his dry, perverse and jaded thoughts through the present financial and familial struggles and flashback to formative years and events to try and get some perspective. It’s a dark journey not for the fainthearted. The plot is often summed up as “sex-addict pays for his sick Mum’s medical care by pretending to choke in restaurants and garnering sympathy”, but that is pretty reductionist as summaries go and will instantly put a number of people off reading the book.
This is obviously one of the reasons the book went ten years without becoming a film, and the director Clark Gregg (an actor in his first directing role – he’s picked a toughie to start with!) has opted for a broader brush. Sam Rockwell plays Victor Mancini and he actually portrays the character as a surprisingly likeable and charming character. The film’s tone, whilst still dealing with the same topics as the book is much lighter and actually it reminded me of ‘Mallrats’ in its overall feel (although there’s absolutely nothing in common if you look at the synopsises).
The other main characters are Victor’s Mum, Ida Mancini (Angelica Huston) and the nurse Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald). Angelica Huston has a nice role to work with and plays the Mother in completely different veins in the various flashbacks and Kelly Macdonald is just wonderful and always great on screen, just as she is here with a character who is more than she appears at first.
As a study of addiction it has some truths to it, but is a little lacking in punch. The plot is also a little random and meandering in parts, but that said it is a largely enjoyable 90 minute adaptation of the source novel though admittedly very different in tone so fans of one might not necessarily be fans of the other.
Don’t let the plot summary put you off (it’s more of a conventional rom-com with a twist than it is a dark, vulgar, sex-addiction drama full of choking stunts) although equally don’t arrive from the book expecting a dark and troubled tale and you won’t be disappointed.
3 on 5
Directed by: Clark Gregg
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Angelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald
UK Release: 21st November 2008