Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a sex-addicted dropout, keeps his increasingly deranged mother, Ida (Anjelica Huston), in an expensive private medical hospital by working days at the Colonial Williamsburg historical theme park. And to help pay the hospital, Victor runs an occasional scam by deliberately choking in upscale restaurants to form parasitic relationships with the wealthy patrons who "save" him. When, in a rare lucid movement, Ida reveals that she has withheld the shocking truth of his father's identity, Victor enlists the aid of his best friend, Denny (Brad William Henke) and his mother's beautiful attending physician, Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald), to solve the mystery before the truth of his possibly divine parentage is lost forever.
Review by Louise Keller:
More quirky than funny, this perverse satire chomps into a sandwich filled with issues like sex and belonging. Pushing the envelope every which way, this adaptation of Chuck Palhniuk's fourth novel is out to shock, confront and offend, which it does. Actor, screenwriter and now first time director Clark Gregg has no difficulty in attracting our attention as we enter this world filled with misfits. And while Sam Rockwell's protagonist Victor Mancini is not especially likeable as he indulges in his sex addiction, HIS lying and cheating ways, Rockwell manages to make him a sympathetic character. It's bizarre and unexpected, shaking up our preconceptions about dementia, parenting, orgasms and love.
'Nothing is worth having without a risk,' says Anjelica Huston's Ida who has spent her entire life walking on a tight rope of risk, dragging her young son along with her. Rockwell's Victor has a love hate relationship with his slightly demented mother, and is prepared to go to extremes to make her spill the beans about his paternity. Even an outlandish explanation involving a sacred foreskin, sex in a chapel with his mother's doctor (Kelly Macdonald) with a stethoscope fixed in his ears, is embraced. The only life he knows is the one his mother taught him, and we sense his self-loathing.
Huston is enigmatic as Ida who now symbolically chokes on food in her hospital incarceration, but it is through flashbacks we learn more about her character and why Victor has become such an outcast. We alternate from her loony bin environment to Victor's where he works in a historical theme park, under orders from Clark Gregg's 'Method Mussolini' Lord High Charlie. With its overt nudity, sex scenes and disturbing themes, Choke is not a film for everyone. While it may not have the lasting power of Palhniuk's earlier novel on which the cult movie Fight Club was based, adventurous art-house audiences will no doubt chew it up enthusiastically.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Bizarre as it is, Choke has a riveting quality about it, not the least due to the outstanding performances by a cast who breathe life in all its quirky glory into each of the characters, including peripheral ones - like deranged old women. No, not Anjelica Huston's deranged old woman - she's in a class by herself as Victor's (Sam Rockwell) mother, Ida. Judging by the many flashbacks to Victor's very odd childhood, Ida was certifiable long before she was certified. Huston, always a fascinating screen presence, elevates her bedridden character's impact by her superbly judged performance. Sam Rockwell throws himself into this thornbush of a role with a veracity that is curiously intensified by the (real life) damaged finger in his left hand. That's how the screen intensifies and enlarges things ...
The screenplay draws on the novel and while sometimes it seems episodic, that's just how this story is. The characters take left turns, emotional pole vaults and 360s as they are put through the wringer by a writer whose objectives are buried in the folds of the human condition. Sacrilege and satire are fused with irreverence, the blatant sexuality and frequent coupling is the bedrock on which the characters' journeys are built and the black humour that seeps through everything is not always benign.
It's a challenging film for the unwary and it is often hard to decipher what's the story; but there is a moral to it, perhaps, though not in the sense of morality. The message seems to be that we are the only ones who can and who should determine what we are and how normal that is. Or rather, that it is normal - to each of us we are our own normal selves. Yeah, well tell that to the nuts around you ....
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CAST: Sam Rockwell, Bijou Phillips, Kelly Macdonald, Anjelica Huston, Brad William Henke, Kathryn Alexander, Teodorina Bello, Kate Blumberg, Jonah Bobo, Willi Burke, Heather Burns, David Fonteno, Matt Gerald, Clark Gregg, Joel Grey
PRODUCER: Jonathan Dorfman, Temple Fennell, Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson
DIRECTOR: Clark Gregg
SCRIPT: Clark Gregg (novel by Chuck Palahniuk)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tim Orr
EDITOR: Joe Klotz
MUSIC: Nathan Larson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Roshelle Berliner
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 30, 2008