Redeeming Features: “Choke”

Welcome to Redeeming Features. The blog where I (poorly) review movies that are underappreciated, underrated or under the radar, in hopes of convincing you to give them a second chance. ChokeThis week, we’re gonna get back to our (my) roots a little bit with a movie that a) came from an actual book and b) is driven by some unnecessarily inappropriate narration! Woo hoo! It’s also a movie that I know a lot of people weren’t too keen on because of the aforementioned unnecessary inappropriateness. And rightfully so: there’s more than one scene involving a traveling anal bead. So, hey – I get it. But butt stuff aside, it makes for a pretty interesting story; one definitely unlike stuff I’ve seen/read before. Which, considering the author, shouldn’t shock or awe too much. So, cook yourself up a hearty steak dinner as we take a big ole bite outta Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke.

Now, I know I already poked at it, but I wanna make a point to bring it up again so nobody feels like they were assaulted: Choke is, admittedly and undeniably, yet another flick in the long line of those centered around the same sultry topic: sex. To give you a little taste, we open in a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting where we find our main character, Victor (Sam Rockwell), internally describing each person in the room. He says, “these people are the reason hospitals have special tools to remove the champagne bottle, the fluorescent bulb, the hamster…” My oh my! But as we go deeper (ew), we quickly learn the ways of THIS sex addict are far less pleasurable. Honestly, it seems as if Victor finds no joy in life unless it’s in Joy, a neighbor’s wife. Or at least the ex-hooker named Nico he sneaks out to sneak in mid meeting.

Victor (again magnificently (and weirdly) played by Sam Rockwell) is probably your least run-of-the-mill sad sack piece of shit. Mostly because his chosen job is helping run a colonial mill with this best friend Denny, a compulsive masturbator. Seriously… home boy has his hand in his pants 25/8. Now, when Victor isn’t teaching children the proper way to churn the butter, he’s doing something far more valiant: intentionally choking on meals at expensive restaurants so unsuspecting rich folk will attempt to “save him,” thus giving cause to keep in touch with them over the years and get monetary donations for made-up ailments. Honestly, if you think about it, it’s a pretty inventive con. One so inventive, it raises the question as to why.

Why = Victor’s mother, Ida (Anjelica Huston), a mental patient mentally strapped with a series of made-up characters, resides in a very expensive nursing home that Victor will go to all lengths to pay for in hopes of visiting with his mother. Even if it means playing the roles of her made-up lawyers, ex-friends, ex lovers, and occasionally – her son. Her continuously escaping memory continuously plagues his memory, remembering that growing up he lived a very dysfunctional childhood comprised of different cons, escape routes, and more often than not, police cars taking his mother to prison for stealing him out of his orphanage. Shocker he ended up the way he did, huh?

His mother’s condition getting increasingly worse, Victor turns to a rather unorthodox medicinal solve at the illegal recommendation of Nurse Paige (Kelly Macdonald) in which a sex addict might come in handy (retweet: ew). In her many years of experience, she heard of an experiment involving stem cell research that helped to restore brain cells. However, in order to get unaltered specimens, one must create a baby. Yeah, it’s a little farfetched, but makes for a pretty quick and super awkward character interaction. And also more sex. There’s quite a bit of dat.

Choke, while definitely NSFW, or even NSFHome if literally anyone is around, is definitely worth checking out. If not only to make you realize, “Hey – other people are more sick than me!” Fictional or otherwise, the characters in this film are still weirdly believable and by extension, relatable. I’m not saying you’re all dirty little sex addicts, but I’m saying being unhappy with the skin you’re in and trying desperately to climb out of it is definitely something we’ve all experienced – one lay or another.

TL; DR – sex-addicted con-man tries to keep his life, and his mother’s, together by paying for her hospital bills through a series of overacted choke scenes and gracious donations from unsuspecting saviors.

Cody Tidmore is a Level Three sketch student at DCH. He’s been watching movies for as long as he can remember. Seeing it all – the good, the bad, even the ugly. And when it comes to annoyingly working movie quotes into regular conversation, he’s the reel deal.