Choke – Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance film festival
The author of the book Choke, Chuck Palahniuk has a way with broken individuals and the mentally unstable. He proved it with Fight Club which was adapted brilliantly by David Fincher and here he is adapted with more comic sensibility and touch by Clark Gregg. I am a sucker for dark comedy and Gregg’s nuance was pitch perfect and with this as his directorial debut I am really looking forward to his next project whatever it may be.
Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is possibly one of the most damaged individuals I have ever seen on film and you struggle throughout the film with heaping both pity and judgment upon him for his actions. He is a horrendous sex addict who slept with most of the characters in the film at some point in his life. He supports himself by working in a Colonial era historical town as well as getting money sent to him by people he allowed to save him while pretending to choke in restaurants. Apparently, people get really attached to those they save with the Heimlich maneuver and he sends them letters with fake problems to illicit further acts of kindness upon him. Victor’s mother (Anjelica Huston) raised him as a con artist on the run and created most of his character flaws, and now lives in a mental institution due to her abuse of various drugs. While visiting his mother, Victor meets a nurse who helps send him on a path of redemption, albeit with a lot of pit stops.
Sam Rockwell was excellent in the lead role as he weaves seamlessly through comic and dramatic scenes with devilish charm. Anjelica Huston continues to be one of the greatest female actresses alive, and she was wildly perfect in the many flashback portions of the film. The rest of the cast is filled out with solid supporting actors who I hope to see more of, especially Brad William Henke who was his lovable sad sack friend. The director Clark Gregg is also a wonderful character actor (you would recognize him as the representative for SHIELD in Iron Man) who plays a great quasi-villain in the Colonial town where Victor works.
This film is not for everyone. In fact I would say about 40% of the people who read this will like it. I can envision most people thinking they don’t want to watch these disgusting people struggle for 2 hours amidst a plethora of nudity and foul language. But if you are one of those people that love dark comedy, or if you really enjoyed the story and broken characters of Fight Club not just Fincher’s dark genius style I recommend giving Choke a look.
This is a perfect collection of features for this film, befitting of a Pitch Session. You get a commentary featuring the director, a conversation with the writer of the original material and plenty of behind the scenes footage from character development to filming to post-production and even some film festival coverage.
*Commentary featuring Screenwriter/Actor/Director Clark Gregg and star Sam Rockwell.
*A Conversation with Clark Gregg and Chuck Palahniuk
*Hello, My Name is Victor and I’m a Sex Addict – The Making of Choke
*A Feature on the Casting Process
*A Mother’s Love – Feature on Anjelica Huston’s role
*Footage from the Los Angeles Film Festival