Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Archive: 'Choke'

Movie Review
Choke (2008)

Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is a medical school dropout and a raging sex addict. He would be perfectly content if life was constantly in the state of an orgasm. He prowls Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings looking for women to hook up with. His best friend is Denny (Brian William Henke) who compulsively masturbates. They work together as the "backbone of colonial America" at a tourist attraction representing the wonders of the 1700s. These two men are no role models, and yet "Choke" somehow allows viewers to root for their sleazy and careless existence.

When not involved in sex, Victor spends his time visiting a nursing home to see his senile mother, Ida (Angelica Huston), who thinks her own son is a different person each time he visits. One day there, Victor meets a nurse named Paige Marshall (Kelly MacDonald) who provides him with some hope for answers about his mother and also a surprising path to something other than just mere sexual gratification. Victor Mancini is also a scheming con-man whose motto is "What would Jesus not do?" He goes to fancy restaurants and purposely chokes on large hunks of food theatrically twirling about holding his throat in the hope that he is saved and lands in the lap of a wealthy patron who will go on to send him checks. He believes he's doing those people a favor.

The movie is based on Chuck Palahniuk's (author of "Fight Club," which turned into a much better movie) novel of the same name, and while his dark cynicism and satirical voice is quite intact, there just seems to be some lack in connection. The pieces are all there, but they just don't ever fit together properly. Sam Rockwell does a superb job giving Victor such a raw and pessimistic attitude, but the script should've provided him with even more. The raunch of the book is certainly all there, and the movie rightfully earns its R-rating, especially with one hilariously wrong scene which I'm shocked and pleased got included from the novel. But while paying tribute with such scenes, there also needs to be some equal level of density and not just a retread of pages out of obligation.

The movie is funny with a tinge of sadness, as well, and is sometimes rather poignant. It just feels like they got the wrong director for the job. "Choke" was written and directed by actor-director Clark Gregg. If there was a more experienced director involved, I feel like this could've and should've been something great. Under the conditions, however, the movie only comes up as pretty good. My disappointment is fueled by the fact that I've read the book, so minus that perspective, maybe those who are only seeing the movie will be more satisfied, and maybe it's actually a better movie on its own terms. Either way, "Choke" touches on one of my biggest pet peeves: an ending change. The novel ended on the perfect note, and for the sake of Hollywood, it got changed in the translation to the screen. And the disappointment remains.

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