First time director Clark Gregg’s movie Choke was one of the most talked about films going into the Sundance Film Festival this year, and for good reason. It was the second film adaptation from the work of Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. And while it is written by the same guy, it is on the complete other side of the spectrum from Fight Club — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t clearly the work of its author.
Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) plays Victor, a sex addicted colonial park tour guide whose mother (Anjelica Huston) has been committed to a home for the mentally ill. When he visits her, she rarely recognizes her son, but rather an old acquaintance — sometimes a lawyer, sometimes a close friend, but never her son. Depressed about his life and his addiction to meaningless sex, Victor just plays along.
When Victor finds out that his mother is getting closer and closer to her end, he decides that he must find out who his real father is, as his mother never really told him. With the help of a sexy new doctor at the care facility (Kelly MacDonald, No Country for Old Men), he sets out on his transitional journey towards controlling his addiction and righting all the wrongs of his life.
And with that plot, I have for the third time this week been subjected to a movie that is all about sexual deviance — only this one was the most fun. In comparison to the unhinged Downloading Nancy and Alan Ball’s brilliantly crafted Towelhead, Choke is a lighthearted comedy. There are some serious elements, mostly delivered through the fine acting of Sam Rockwell, but for the most part it is a breezy, fun romp through the world of sexual addiction. If Clark Gregg has accomplished anything here, it is that he did not make a film that takes itself too seriously.
The downfall of Choke, which was just purchased by Fox Searchlight today, is that it does tapdance all over the line of appropriate behavior. The level of crude language and nudity in the film may turn some audiences away, but not me. Crude or not, it all worked very well to create an experience that was easy to enjoy. But don’t be fooled by the fact that it is funny, because in the end it comes around to show a little bit of heart and give us a little bit more — and in classic Palahniuk fashion, there is a little twist at the end that works pretty well. Don’t expect the intensity or the insane ending of Fight Club — just sit back and enjoy the ride.