Choke Review
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If you’ve seen Fight Club, the first movie adaptation of a Chuck Palahniuk novel, you might (understandably) expect the latest Palahniuk adaptation, Choke to be just as dark and edgy. But you’d be only partially right—because while some of the subject matter is definitely edgy and some of the humor is definitely dark, it’s nothing like Fight Club.

Choke is a gritty comedy about Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a sex addict who doesn’t seem all that interested in breaking his addiction. In fact, he really only goes to the meetings to pick up chicks.

Outside his meetings and his crappy job working for a colonial theme park, Victor’s life revolves around his mother, Ida (Anjelica Houston). Ida requires full-time care for dementia, so Victor pays the bills by conning people on the side—pretending to choke in restaurants and living off the support he receives from the kind souls who believe they’ve saved his life.

While he’s visiting Ida one day, she reveals that she never actually told him the true identity of his father. Desperate to find out who he really is, he turns to his best friend, Denny (Brad William Henke), and his mother’s pretty young doctor, Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald), to help him find the truth.

Due to the main character’s…um…personal quirks, Choke is a pretty explicit film. So before heading out to the theater with a date on Saturday night, you should probably be aware that it features a variety of sexual situations and plenty of nudity. Really, though, it’s no more explicit (in fact, it’s probably even less so) than the average Judd Apatow comedy. And, believe it or not, the movie isn’t really about the sex; it’s about a man who’s trying to figure out who he really is. Sure, the sex plays a part in all of it, but the story goes much deeper than the typical outrageous comedy—and that’s what makes it stand out.

When you set all of that other stuff aside, Choke is simply a fascinating—and often surprising—character study. It’s the story of a man who can’t commit to anyone but his mother—a woman who’s always been just a little bit crazy, who took her son out of foster home after foster home and made him promise that he was hers and hers alone. And as viewers get to know Victor, he gets to know and understand more about himself, too.

Fortunately, Rockwell is the perfect guy for the part. He’s neither too serious nor too wacky, and he makes Victor more than just a silly, sex-crazed caricature. Yes, he’s a quirky character—and his antics will often make you laugh. But he’s also a surprisingly real character—thanks to Rockwell’s ability to show every emotion, every anxiety, every fear.

So while Choke is an edgy film that’s occasionally pretty graphic, it’s much more than just another sex comedy. It’s a smart and cleverly-written film. It’s funny without being outrageously, ridiculously funny. It’s thoughtful without being dark and heavy. And it’s one that will keep you thinking long after you leave the theater.

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