'Choke' requires strong reflex


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There should be several provisions for anyone who wants to go see "Choke": No one under 17 should be admitted, nor anyone over 65. Anyone who believes that the act of sexual intercourse is sacred and is easily offended should go see "Nights in Rodanthe" instead. In this movie, sex isn't about love - it's about power, control and physical gratification.

Adapted from Chuck Palahniuk's ("Fight Club") novel of the same name, "Choke" follows the dysfunctional life of Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a worker at a colonial theme park who forces himself to choke on food at fancy restaurants in order to receive the pity and patronage of rich diners. When not having sex during his sex addict meetings, hanging out with his best friend and fellow sex addict Denny (Brad William Henke), or running his scams, Victor visits his dementia-ridden mother Ida (Anjelica Huston) in a nursing home run by extortionist nuns.

One day while visiting with Victor, Ida confides in him - she believes he is a long-dead lawyer named Fred - that she has enormous guilt over concealing the true identity of his father. One day Victor, who thought his father was a traveling salesman from Norway, turns to his mother's nurse aide, Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald). Throw in about three more plotlines, including one where Victor is potentially the son of Jesus, and you've got yourself an hour and a half of offensive, lewd and often hilarious dialogue.

"Choke" is a character-driven dark comedy that leaves viewers in a daze, as the lives depicted are about as far from the norm as you can possibly get. Sam Rockwell faced the difficult task of making Victor likeable but successfully adds a roguish quality to the otherwise despicable character. Likewise, Anjelica Huston performs at her usual exemplary level, and while Kelly Macdonald did a fine job, the slowness and tone of her voice, though complimentary to her character, are a bit irritating.

But "Choke" is an overly ambitious project that doesn't quite succeed in making as big of an impact as it could. The multiple plotlines, accompanied by flashbacks throughout that tell the saga of Victor and his mother, are often disorienting and cause the movie to lack fluidity. Perhaps if a few had been eliminated, the audience would have received the chance to delve deeper into the remaining plotlines and therefore react with more emotion toward Victor's plight. True to form, a surprising plot twist accompanies Palahniuk's work, and just like that of "Fight Club," it is one that is hard to predict. "Fight Club" takes top prize though, and if you are searching for a new psychotic favorite, while it may be worth your time to watch this movie, you might enjoy re-watching Tyler Durden's struggle a bit more than Victor's. Instead of the total, "Wow, that totally blew my mind" sensation experienced after "Fight Club," you instead just feel violated and weird after viewing "Choke," though you probably had more than one good laugh.

Bottom line: See this movie if a) you appreciate offensive, dirty, yet smart humor, b) want to study the art of choking yourself for money or c) have an obsession with colonial America and/or sex.

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