Directed by Clark Gregg
Choke is another one of those fraudulent American indie films which pretends to be really “edgy” with Controversial Subject Matter but then turns out to be trite and sentimental. This one is about a sex-addict (Sam Rockwell) who pays the medical bills of his mother (Angelica Houston) who suffers from dymentia by working at a colonial theme park and pretending to choke in restaurants to gain the sympathies of the rich people who save him. He’s doing OK until he meets his mother’s carer, Paige, who makes him realise how empty his life is and spurs him on the road to finding the root of his dysfunctions and redeeming his life.
Throughout this film I kept on being reminded of that Simpsons episode where Marge goes to a psychologist to help cure her fear of flying. She uncovers a traumatic memory of discovering her father was not a heroic pilot but a flight attendant and the psychologist declares her cured. On the way out, Marge remembers several other childhood incidents and the psychologist just says, “Yes, yes it’s all a rich tapestry”. There’s a lot of that kind of stupid, Freudian pop-psychology in Choke but it’s not satirical. It’s dead serious. Almost every time Sam Rockwell’s character Victor does any twisted act, the film flashes back to his childhood to explain why he is so twisted.
The film is adapted from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk of Fight Club fame and there are a couple of similarities. Therapy groups and characters spouting random trivia are particular obsessions of Palahniuk. The most regrettable thing common to both Choke and Fight Club is that the particular traits that make them unique are explained as some kind of psychological illness. It’s almost shockingly conservative when you consider that the only way the characters can find happiness is to become monogamous, heterosexual couples. Tellingly, Victor’s dramatic low-point arrives at the point that he consents to using anal beads. (OMG! Anal beads! This guy is sick and deranged!)
The film is intermittently funny. The best laughs occur when Victor is being yelled at by his boss (played by the director) whose stringent rules require that he speak only in Olde English. Yet, more often then not the film is just boring. Clark Gregg has made a visually inert film which is a shame given that the director of photography was Tim Orr whose made some gorgeous looking films with David Gordon Green. The soundtrack is awful. Gregg commits the sin of playing quirky, comical music to signpost that something quirky and comical is happening on the screen. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Radiohead also feature on the soundtrack but as much as I love them, they don’t work in the film.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t see Choke. It’s not a shocking film. It’s about as shocking as a Rove McManus opening monologue. It’s a fraudulent American indie film and if you pay to see it, you’ll just encourage them to pump out more crap.
SEE THIS WITH:
Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell, 2006)
Now this film is not without its flaws. For example, it tends towards syrupy sentiment towards its conclusion. But what it does have that Choke doesn’t is a much freer and generous attitude towards the sexualy deviants of this world. There’s a lot of weird sex in this movie but the characters are not portrayed as having some kind of sickness or judged in any kind of way.