Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Choke

Choke
Starring:
Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald, Brad William Henke, Paz de la Huerta and Joel Grey


Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: September 26, 2008 Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

This dark comedy has a subversive, impaired nature to it considering many hot topics it touches.

From the wild, popular novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the visually creative low-budgeted Choke is definitely attracted to the source of frustration and perversity. And, having the cagey Sam Rockwell as the rather venal Victor Mancini will easily draw Fight Club (Palahniuk's more famous book) aficianados to this raw, unrefined scene.

Starring Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, and Kelly Macdonald, the unchronological tale focuses on Mancini whose day job is a "historical interpreter" being "an indentured Irish servant in the backbone of Colonial America". An 18th century village is recreated with redcoats and gentry, among the staff. Director Clark Gregg appears as Lord High Charlie of the village.

The medical school dropout is driven by strong sexual urges (he's in rehab) while his "work" helps to cover the cost of having his debilitating mother Ida (a very good Huston) looked after in private mental institutions. The title refers to what Victor does at night to procure extra money after being "saved" by opulent and generous patrons in posh eateries.

The clarity of the script comes from the response of Victor to something about his parentage. He'll get help from another addict who doesn't stick to rehab, Denny (Brad William Henke), as well as his mother's dainty attending physician, Dr. Paige Marshall (Macdonald, used very effectively in No Country For Old Men).

Gregg, inserts moments of outrageous wit that figures on the delirium of human behavior. Obviously, from several flashbacks, it's hard to exculpate Ida who has left Victor worse for the wear, not just in jumping around in foster care. Rockwell, thus, runs with the deviant nature of the character, imprinted with criminality and paranoia.

Part of the amusingly absurd nature of Choke is dealing with all of the baggage and a subplot involving Paige to have Ida deal with her derangement through an "exchange" with her son. As in Matchstick Men and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Rockwell is capable of executing the pathos and farcical with aplomb.

Besides the excellent support of Huston, latching sharply into the transition of a troubled, desperate woman (Ida was a single mom), there are noticeable supporting turns; by Paz de la Huerta as another recovering addict and Joel Grey (Gregg's father-in-law), as another support group member.

Because Gregg is a first-timer and hasn't really honed his craft, not to mention the lower production cost, Choke doesn't reach the heights of the controversial Fight Club. But it heeds close to the source in its decadently disturbing way.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Choke        B+      A-            B+ 

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