The adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name is a well made and humorous adventure in the life of a sex addict, but as a reader and lover of the book, I feel like it didn’t quite touch the greatness of the source material.
With that said, Clark Gregg’s adaptation will most certainly shock and awe people with the insane twists and unpredictability to the proceedings and I think the film works probably much better if you do not know what is coming. The absurdity and lunacy of everything that happens in this story is what makes it great, and take away the shock and reveal of it all takes away from it a bit. But moving on…
Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is a sex addict, he attends sexaholic anonymous (where he usually has sex), and is a historical interpreter at a colonial Williamsburg type of community. Victor is a med school drop out that is now raising money to keep his mother (Anjelica Huston) in residence at a nice adult women’s care facility due to her dementia. Victor visits regularly, though his mom usually thinks that he is a dead lawyer from her past as he struggles to get her to eat in-between his banging of the hospital staff. When his Mothers new doctor, Paige (Kelly Macdonald) comes into his life he tries to sleep with her, obviously, but at first for the wrong reasons and then possibly for the betterment of his mother’s health.
The movie already sounds a bit out there and we haven’t gotten into the compulsive masturbating friend who collects rocks, the self-inflicted choking, the absurdity of enforcing colonial laws on employees of a modern tourist attraction, the sexual banter and innuendo among elderly women, or Christ implications. It gets out there. But that is all good and great, because that is what makes this film good and unique, the twisted world and mind of Palahniuk is a fun place to play in if you can swallow it, and if all of these shenanigans sound interesting then you should be taking the plunge into his world and that of Choke.
The acting in Choke is top notch by the leads with a decent supporting cast to boot. Sam Rockwell is great as the distraught Victor, not knowing to go with his impulses or maybe make a change for the better. He also has to take on these serious, almost heartbreaking moments from time to time and then be a buffoon for the absurdity of the piece and he is able to cover the range of emotions with ease. He also handles the physical aspect of having to simulate sex in a number of positions in a number of places; he must have spent a lot of time with his pants off for this picture. Anjelica Huston does a great job as the fading mother figure, as well as the radical mother in the flashbacks that may or may not have been the best thing for her growing son. Kelly Macdonald also does a nice job as Paige and offers a sweet image for Victor to possibly finally fall for, but she can also show a raunchy streak as well when sexual frustrations come in her path.
Clark Gregg steps in front of the camera as well to play one of the funnier supporting characters as well as the “leader” of the fake town Victor works at and just nails the idiocracy of a man that takes something far too seriously. He also does a fine job behind the lens, creating quick and interesting ways to show us the mind of Victor without jarring the narrative of the film. Though, I don’t know how affective the flashbacks were for me, even though Anjelica Huston was very good in them. I just didn’t think they contributed to the overall story and who Victor is as one would have hoped. The film also lacks many laugh out loud hilarious moments. There are a few, and they are very good, but most of the time, the comedy simply makes you smile; which is fine, but you just have to know what kind of comedy you are getting into here.
In the end, Choke, is an intriguing and darkly comic look into the life of a sex addict in the crazy world of a Chuck Palahniuk. His subversive humor is like few others and it can be an enjoyable world to play in. Rockwell is great in the conflicted lead and he carries the picture from start to finish. The film moves well and has its own style, which is remarkable at the shoe string budget, and will definitely be one of the more original stories in cinema this year. If interested, definitely check out in the theater, but if on the fence, don’t miss this one once it is at the video store as it is well worth your time.