Written by Puño Estupendo
I have to be honest, I've never read a Chuck Palahniuk novel. The closest I came was watching Fight Club and I admit that that's not even close to the same thing as reading a novel. I liked it though, twistedly wrong and yet greatly entertaining. For this version of another of his novels, Choke, I'm getting the feeling that the man likes characters with issues. The characters here not only have issues, they're positively overloaded with them. Victor Mancini sets a fairly high bar of dysfunction and thanks to the charm of actor Sam Rockwell, you can't help but fall for the guy. A sex addict with no apparent scruples, he cares about the people around him even though he doesn't seem to have any regrets about his shameless activities. Indulging in all sorts of blush-worthy sexual behavior, Choke is not a tale for those easily disturbed by fetish heavy acts. Victor's best friend Denny is a chronic masturbator and is almost as fun as Victor is. The two work at a Colonial themepark (which neither seems to be good at or even likes) and you see the world through their sex-obsessed minds.
The only problems Victor is concerned with are the problems with his mother, Ida. Suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Victor is paying for her care at an expensive clinic and the money he makes from his themepark job just isn't enough to cover it. Through another aspect of his dysfunction, he supplements his income by intentionally choking on food in restaurants, forming a bond with the people who "save" him, and then conning them out of money.
Sound weird? It is.
It totally works though. Sam Rockwell plays Victor with such skill that he charms the viewer just as he charms the good Samaritans he takes advantage of in the restaurants. He's not a good person, he goes out of his way to prove it, and yet it's hard not to think he's great in his messed-up way. Through visits with his mother (who always confuses him with one of her lawyers), you see Victor try to work through everything that's messed up in his life, trying to come to terms with the childhood that still troubles him and is the cause of why he can't have healthy relationships with people in his adulthood.
First-time director Clark Gregg has done a great job by taking themes and behaviors that are extreme to most and lets you see right through them to the people underneath. This is all about character and the sexual subjects shouldn't be a red flag for you nor should they be thought of as sexy or titillating; it's just who these people are.
With a fantastic cast including Anjelica Huston as Victor's mother Ida, you can't help but be taken in to their world and wishing the best for them. You want things to work out for Victor but you're just as unsure of how he should go about it as he is. This is a great film and has a charm to it despite the craziness everyone in it has. This is the second movie now that has me thinking that maybe I should get around to reading one of Palahniuk's books fairly soon.
The extras are loaded up on this disc: commentary, making-of, outtakes, and a discussion between Palahniuk and Gregg. The deleted scenes don't add much, but they let you see a bit more of the characters you just fell for; delaying having to let go of them for a couple of more minutes after the film is over. This is a great movie, dysfunctional as hell, but a great movie nonetheless.