Directed by: Clark Gregg
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Angelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald, Brade William Henke
Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Plot: A sex-addicted con-man (Rockwell) dropped out of medical school to get a job to afford his mother’s (Huston) hospital bills. He also plays on the sympathies of others who rescue him from choking to death at restaurants.
Who’s It For? It’s a dark comedy that should have gone darker. Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, it doesn’t carry the same bite or impact as Fight Club.
Expectations: I actually had the book Choke waiting for me at the library, but due to an early screening, I didn’t read it before the film. All I knew was Rockwell was starring. Safe Men made me a Rockwell fan.
Sam Rockwell as Victor: Rockwell’s wispy loaf of a haircut doesn’t aid him well, but he does his best to prove he’s a sex addict. From the first moment of having sex with his sex addict sponsor, his addiction is an amusement. Perhaps that is the difficulty of a (normal) sex addict, those of us who aren’t don’t see the problem in it.
Angelica Huston as Ida: Victor’s mom isn’t a good one. She spent his childhood taking him from foster parents. She’s played similar characters in The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grifters. The problem here is that there’s no emotional impact with her story and her secret takes way too long to come out.
Kelly Macdonald as Paige: I never bought into her as a doctor. Something just didn’t feel right. So when she wants to have sex in the hospital’s chapel, it’s hard to understand. I do like the twist of Victor not being able to get it up because he might actually like a girl.
Brad William Henke as Denny: Denny masturbates 15 times a day, so that is always good for an awkward laugh. The best parts of the film take place when Denny and Victor are reenactors at Colonial Times. Denny is a breath of fresh air, but typically he points out how much Victor is bringing him down, which also brings the audience down.
Talking: There is a pretty big, odd leap about who Victor’s father might be (Ida lied and told him his father was a traveling salesman who has Tourette’s). Victor being the second coming just seems confusing. Especially considering a common voice over moment is Victor explaining that a terrible blow job is better than a beautiful hike.
Sights & Sounds: Clark Gregg is a first time director, and unfortunately it feels like it. For a film dealing with sex addiction and choking, there doesn’t seem to be much bite. Gregg does better acting as the man in charge at Colonial Times. The music is forgettable, which shouldn’t be the case at all since Rogue Wave, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! and Radiohead are involved. The only song I remember is Ben Kweller’s “The Rules.”
Sex, choking, the Messiah … Choke doesn’t have the impact you’d think with those things as the key subjects. It takes too long to figure out what Victor’s journey is all about. It’s amusing to see Victor’s view of the world, which normally includes flashes of past sexually experiences, but there’s no force behind it. Clark Gregg (yes, I think his name is backwards also) has had a place in my heart ever since he was on the last episodes of “Sports Night,” but he should have gone darker, otherwise Choke just runs out of breath.