“Choke” Gags in a Good Way

Chuck Palahniuk is back, getting under your skin and playing tetherball with your nerves via anal beads, childhood trauma, total dysfunction, hilarious ironies, sex addiction, sex, sex and more sex. Director Clark Gregg has done a magnificent job adapting Palahniuk’s novel, “Choke,” for the silver screen. Anybody who has read the book would wonder, “How on earth would this be made into a film?” that would explain why it took the first-time director over two years to make the screenplay really come together. There were several changes made, but they will not be mentioned here for the sake of you readers, especially those of you diehard fans who have devoured the book time and time again.
The film is about Victor, a sex addict played by Sam Rockwell, who is burdened by the declining health of his mother Ida (Anjelica Huston), who was once a bold, radical drug abuser and is now suffering from dementia. Although they were never “close” in a conventional way, Victor feels obliged to keep her in a nice, private hospital and resorts to ridiculous scams at restaurants in order to ensure a constant flow of extra cash.
His stunt involves intentionally choking on his meal, thus thrusting unsuspecting (and hopefully wealthy) strangers into the position of a hero, or saviour. Victor believes that every person wants to feel important, or needed (which, of course, includes himself whether or not he acknowledges it) and therefore, they are more than happy to send checks his way for a little extra support each birthday, holiday or time Victor creates a story of necessity. He considers it a win-win situation.
When Victor isn’t choking to death or attending sexaholic meetings in order to sleep with a woman he sponsors, he is playing the role of an 18th century indentured Irish servant at a Colonial theme park called Dunsboro. There, he and his best friend, Denny (Brad William Henke), discuss their addictions, exchange entertaining banter, mock their boss, Lord High Charlie (Clark Gregg), and fantasize about the milkmaid (Bijou Phillips) who gets stoned in the barn during her breaks.
Although it may seem that Victor is just working and getting laid, it is evident that everything he does throughout his days are for the sake of supporting his mother or nurturing the wounds he accumulated in his youth. He is co-dependent on his best friend, unable to love a woman, or anybody for that matter and unwilling to see himself as anything other than a jerk.
During one of his visits to the hospital, he runs into his mother’s young physician (Kelly MacDonald) and from then on is thrown off track by an attraction to her that triggers more than just sexual desire. The young physician informs Victor that his mother needs to reveal to him some detail of his past – where he came from – but this becomes a problem for Victor because his mother’s dementia causes her to think that each time he visits, it is really one of her old lawyers, Fred, who is actually deceased.
The film is everything you could expect a film based on a Palahniuk novel to be; to put it in a nutshell, it is in your face. The film is honest, quirky, witty and interesting. Clark Gregg does a good job of staying true to the novel, but he definitely changes some of the essentials, namely the ending, into something a bit more like a happy-go-lucky product of Hollywood. Regardless, for both those who have and have not read the book, it is a worthwhile film. I will give much due credit to any film that can make me laugh, cringe, shake my head in disgust, curl my lip and reach the brink of crying within two hours.
“Choke” will be released in select theaters including Edwards University Town Center 6 on Sept. 26.