Choke (2008)

Film review: Choke (2008), directed by Clark Gregg

chokeThis film was billed as a “black comedy”, to which I went “oooh” and decided to watch. Choke is based on a book by Chuck Palahniuk, who also wrote Fight Club.

Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is a sex addict, attending meetings like Sexoholics Anonymous – or rather, failing to show up to said meetings because he’s too busy nailing one of the other would-be attendants. Together with best friend Denny (Brad William Henke), another sexoholic, he works at a colonial tourist attraction as a re-enactor in order to support his mother (Anjelica Huston) staying in a mental hospital. She has Alzheimers and can’t even recognise her own son anymore.

Victor’s other, more profitable, way of getting an income, is to go to restaurants and pretend to choke, getting people to help him, and in a weird way guilt-trip them into parting with lots of money. Saving another person’s life can be oddly … rewarding.

Victor doesn’t know who his father is, so when pretty Paige (Kelly Macdonald), a doctor at the hospital, says she knows of a revolutionary new method of helping his mother, he’s all for it. Maybe that way his mother will tell him who his father is (as getting Denny pretending to be him didn’t work). Thing is, the method is rather odd, and for once in his life, Victor can’t actually get it up, as it were. And then things get really complicated.

Also features director Clark Gregg as Victor’s rather anal boss at the re-enactment village, Heather Burns as the internet date who has very specific directions for how she wants Victor to rape her (!) and Gillian Jacobs as Cherry Daiquiri.

Choke is a strange film, no two ways about it. Victor is essentially a con man who has shagged his way through most of the staff at his mother’s hospital and he’s certainly not above conning his own mother – not into giving him money, but information. But then you could argue that the poor boy had such a difficult childhood. Victor was placed in foster care a lot, as his mother kept moving around and getting into trouble. No wonder the kid got messed up.

I really enjoyed Rockwell and Huston in their roles, but the film was more bizarre than it was funny, and sure, it was kinda dark … but not properly dark, where you laugh even though you’re not supposed to. Here, it was more tragic funny than “oh gosh, did I just laugh my head off at something wholly unappropriate?”

It was also moving along at a fairly slow pace, but was still enjoyable, sort of. Didn’t feel entirely compelled to watch it through to the end, if it wasn’t for the bit where Vincent starts wondering if his dad was in fact … uhm, a rather famous person. (There, spoiler free.) It was quite amusing. But yeah, overall, it was bizarre rather than really funny, and not entirely memorable.

3 out of 5 crucifixes … crucifi?

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