out of Five
Running time: 92
Enjoyable, blackly comic drama with a great script and a terrific central performance by Sam Rockwell.
What's it all about?
Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, Choke stars Sam Rockwell as sex addict Victor Mancini, who reluctantly holds down a job as a historical re-enactor alongside his best friend and fellow sex-addict, Denny (Brad William Henke). As well as having sex with pretty much anything that moves, Victor also runs a choking scam in restaurants, in order to pay for his ageing mother's (Anjelica Huston) medical bills at a private mental institution.
However, Victor's world is turned upside down when his mother hints that she may have lied about who his father was and her diaries (written in Italian) seem to indicate that he was the result of an IVF experiment with a relic of holy foreskin. Meanwhile, Victor falls for a young doctor at the institution (Kelly Macdonald) and is shocked when he finds himself unable to perform with her, sexually.
Sam Rockwell is superb - his likeable screen persona and puppyish face ensure that Victor retains our sympathy, even when doing some pretty reprehensible things. There's also strong support from Henke (whose chronic masturbation habit provides some cheap laughs), Huston and Kelly Macdonald, who delivers yet another note-perfect American accent as Paige.
The script and direction are excellent: what initially seems like a bawdy, rapid-fire sex farce suddenly coalesces into something that's both unexpected and genuinely moving. To this end, the editing is wonderful, particularly in regard to the film's use of flashbacks, both for the sex scenes and for the scenes involving Victor's childhood.
The dialogue crackles with witty one-liners and there are several hilarious scenes, including a priceless gross-out moment that it would be churlish to spoil here and a scene involving Victor talking his way out of being caught naked with the co-worker (Bijou Phillips) his boss has his eye on.
Choke is a sharply directed, well acted and frequently hilarious comic drama that packs an unexpectedly moving emotional punch. Highly recommended.