“Orgasms release endorphins; endorphins kill pain,” says Victor Mancini in a scene from “Choke,” a movie centered on a raging sex addict who has no qualms about taking any woman in sight.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Clark Gregg, based on novel by Chuck Palahniuk
STARRING Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald, Brad William Henk and Clark Gregg
RATING: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, the same author who penned “Fight Club,” it is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not pleasing fare for audiences who feed on traditional entertainment. Even the more liberal-minded may find this blunt offering audacious, if not offensive. Prepare to squirm at a scene, for instance, in which Victor, played by Sam Rockwell, has one of many fantasies before a naked nun.
Needless to say, viewers will find scenes like that either grotesquely hilarious or offensively crude. Yet, for those of us willing to abide the dictum that nothing human is alien to art, “Choke” need not be dismissed as a work of decadence.
For all its assaults on what some might term good taste, “Choke” invites us to have compassion for this medical school dropout, a messed-up miscreant who perhaps never had a chance at achieving normality as defined by society at large — certainly not with Ida, an eccentric mother who, as played by Anjelica Huston, creates an environment bound to disturb and foment anguish in the soul of any son.
If, in fact, she is his mother in the first place.
Imagine a situation in which a maternal figure takes her son on a midnight run in a zoo. The mission: release the animals, including a lynx, who attacks the boy. When we meet Ida, she is in a state of dementia, in a home inhabited by disturbed patients, some of whom include horny septuagenarians who attack Victor with unprintable come-ons.
Meanwhile, Victor has learned to simulate choking seizures at restaurants. Behind his grotesque charade, there is a kind of therapeutic madness. Go figure? Don’t even try.
“Choke” takes us on a perversely wild ride as we meet Victor and his menagerie of friends and companions, some more troubled than he. Take his friend Denny, played by Brad William Henke. He’s a chronic masturbator who works at a Colonial theme park, not unlike nearby Sturbridge Village. One of the crew is played by writer-director Clark Gregg, whose role at the park is portraying a dandy named Lord High Charlie.
Back at the nursing home, Ida’s condition worsens; coming to her aid is Dr. Paige Marshall, played by Kelly Macdonald; she seems to understand Mom, volunteering to translate Ida’s diary from the Italian. Part of her cure is initiating sexual contact with Victor in the chapel; we will learn more about this rather quirky and quacky doctor.
Eventually, Denny will meet a stripper named Cherry Daquiri, who may have a part in his reformation. As for Victor, there may be a reason he is left to suffer on Earth. He has reason to believe he is a descendant of Jesus.
This winner of the Special Jury Prize at the recent Sundance Film Festival, despite its acclaim, likely will strike some of us as a profane excursion into territory reserved for the emperor’s new clothes. But as I mentioned, I cannot bring myself to write this one off as a fraud. Beneath this morass of madness, there’s a beating heart imploring us to have some pity for Victor Mancini.
Whatever you do, try to refrain from applying logic to this farce, which comes to us as unrated by the MPAA.