One of my all time favorite movies is Fight Club. Between the direction of David Fincher and the words and story of Chuck Palahniuk, you really can’t get a darker, more scathing, and (somehow), simultaneously, hysterical look at modern life. Palahniuk is perhaps, one of the best of the modern satirists in the classic tradition of the genre. I remember a couple of years ago when I watched Choke for the first time. I had never heard of it before my dad had rented it from Netflix, and I didn’t know that it was from the guy who wrote Fight Club. When I finished watching it and was reveling in what an awesome, hilarious, and quirky film I had just watched, it was only a matter of time until I realized that two and two went together.
Choke is the story of Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a sex addict and his tumultous relationship with his mother (Anjelica Houston) and all the women in his life. His mother is in the state mental hospital and is suffering from Alzheimer’s and whenever she sees Victor, she often confuses him with another person, such as one of her dead lawyers. Victor’s addiction, as compared to his best friend Denny who is addicted to masturbation and will do so in public, is to having random sex with complete strangers. This becomes complicated when he meets Paige Marshall (Kelly MacDonald), a doctor at his mother’s hospital, and he begins to develop feelings for her. I won’t ruin anything else in the plot because it goes to so many ridiculous heights that part of the pleasure of the first viewing is seeing just where this film will ultimately take you.
This movie is absolutely a laugh riot. If you like dry and dark humor (to be specific, if you understood that Fight Club was meant as satire and was meant to be funny quite often), this movie is right up your aisle. If you’re easily offended by a high level of raunchiness though, then it probably isn’t for you. However, there were countless scenes in the movie that had me busting a gut laughing. For example, a scene where Victor, tired of being followed by an old woman at the mental hospital who thinks she’s her younger brother and that they are both still children, tells her he is the brother and apologizes for the supposed molestation of her brother (as dark as that scene sounds, I swear, it really is funny). Or, in one scene, Victor finds out that there is a chance that he was cloned from the sacred foreskin of Jesus while his mother was in Italy, or any of Victor’s little “Tyler Durden” style monologues. They’re always hilarious.
When I think good acting, Sam Rockwell’s name doesn’t really pop to mind. The only film of his that didn’t drive me nuts before Choke was Box of Moonlight, a fantastic indie dramedy with John Turturro. However, he was cast perfectly for this role and plays the part just right. I’m not saying this an Oscar-winning performance but, for once, Sam Rockwell did a pretty great job in this part. However, Anjelica Houston proves why she is one of the most beloved actresses of all time. As Victor’s often psychotic mother (even and especially before the Alzheimers), she gave an acting tour de force. It’s a crime that she wasn’t nominated for any major acting awards that year.
I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on how faithful it is of an adaptation. Fortunately, this is a film review site and not an elitist “the book is better than movie” snob site. And as a film, this movie was a smashing success. The only people that I wouldn’t recommend it to are the people who won’t be able to handle the raunchier aspects of the film. This movie earned every last cent of its “R” Rating. For everyone else who can handle pitch-black comedy, this film is for you.
Final Score: A-