Choke – Review

Worth seeing: for a cheeky, mostly intelligent, often funny but sometimes incoherent journey into the world of sex-addiction, that falls short on an emotional level
Director:Clark Gregg
Featuring:Sam Rockwell, Alice Barrett, Anjelica Huston, Brad William Henke, Clark Gregg, Kathryn Alexander, Kelly Macdonald
Length:92 minutes
Certificate:18
Country:US
Released:21st November 2008

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Where to start?
So, Victor (Sam Rockwell) is a sex addict, who works as an extra in an eighteenth century colonial theme park, doing little more than suffering the indignity of having rotten fruit thrown at him while he’s trapped in the stocks in period costume, for the gratification of paying tourists.
This hardly gives him the satisfaction he requires from life, so when he’s not out with his friend and colleague Denny (Brad William Henke) or sleeping with fellow patients at his sex-addition clinic, he’s hanging around in posh restaurants, pretending to choke on his food – a well-rehearsed technique which has brought some wealthy benefactors into his life; after they shake the morsel free, they feel a sense of responsibility towards him.
Against this backdrop, Victor his trying to come to terms with the fact that his mother Ida (Anjelica Huston) is descending into dementia in a local nursing home, cared for by the enigmatic nurse Paige (Kelly Macdonald).

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Clark Gregg’s adaptation of Chuck (Fight Club) Palahniuk’s novel has its charms – many of them – but it’s ultimately a bit of a structural mess and thematically unsatisfying – but maybe that in itself is a metaphor for the life of an emotionally insecure sex-addict with trust issues.
The quirkiness of the four key performances perfectly matches the surreal nature of the story their characters inhabit, but it’s very hard to get a sense of what the film-makers want us to feel about what’s happening.
Few of the characters learn or develop as a result of any of the decisions they make, so it’s hard to feel any sense of achievement, having followed them on their journeys.
There are many laugh out aloud moments – mostly surround the sex addiction sessions and the odd nature of Victor’s day job – but his attempts to bond with his estranged and sickly mother don’t carry the emotional power they need to.
More effort seems to go into the peripheral elements of the plot, such as his relationship with the nurse and other patients, than the key story elements – the choking of the title, amusingly portrayed as it is, is almost so irrelevant to the proceedings that the scenes in which it features could almost be cut from the film entirely without the plot or character development suffering.
It’s a cheeky and brave independent drama, full of wonderfully freaky scenes which don’t really come together to form any kind of coherent whole.
So while it’s a curiosity worth checking out for fans of low-budget quirkiness, ultimately it fails to live up to the promise.