Adapted from a half-baked novel by Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, Choke chronicles yet another anomic antihero/narrator (Sam Rockwell, at 39 about a decade too old for the part) struggling against anomie amid abandonment issues. Rockwell’s Victor Mancini stokes his orgasm addiction by compulsively trysting with a fellow support-group member (on the floor of the john, before and after meetings) and the staffers at the women’s home where his dementia-afflicted mother (Anjelica Huston) is declining, while supplementing his pitiful job as an American Colonial village “historical reenactor” by intentionally choking on restaurant meals, then guilt-tripping his saviors-by-Heimlich into sending him cash. (Glimpsing the wrist of a would-be Samaritan pauper, a gagging Victor panics, “Uh oh, Swatch.”) Given the many echoes of Fight Club motifs and David Fincher’s divisive, ballsy movie version—12-step groups, what Tyler Durden termed “sport fucking,” an 11th-hour identity twist—screenwriter-director Clark Gregg doesn’t solve the book’s feel of rehash, and he can’t produce black-comedy laughs nearly as often as Fincher’s eccentric big-budget satire. Heather Burns scores briefly as a rape-fantasist hookup with an elaborate rulebook, and Rockwell beautifully plays a scene where he consoles a tearful rival while their sleeping quarry is holding his dick, but endless “transgressive” scenes of old ladies at the home accusing Victor of molestation or other trauma-inducing crimes fall grimly flat. Kelly Macdonald’s thankless role as the doctor who rides Victor in a church pew while trying to aid his search for his father (more baroque zaniness involving sacred foreskin) is just a reminder of how amazingly Helena Bonham Carter gave depth to a similarly cartoonish Palahniuk siren in Fight Club. While Rockwell soldiers on gamely, his hangdog sweetness ill-matched to the asshole character, Huston manages a few achingly sad moments, her big eyes looking for succor from her unrecognized son, and plausibly renders in flashback her kooky days of serially kidnapping young Victor (Jonah Bobo) from foster parents. And then Gregg saddles her with a brutally undignified sendoff. Choke makes its source material’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink absurdism broader, less expressive and cheaply reductive.
- Clark Gregg
- Clark Gregg
- Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald, Brad William Henke, Jonah Bobo, Bijou Phillips
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