After a woeful gap in cinema visits, what better way to welcome back the big screen than with a film about a sex addict who thinks he could be the son of Jesus. Super. Based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk, whose name I can’t pronounce let alone spell, Choke is the mashed up tale of Victor, a chap who works as an actor in a historical museum, has an addiction to sex, chokes himself in restaurants in order to scam would-be saviours, and tries to look after his mentally ill mother who resides in a hospital and doesn’t recognise her own son.
If you think that’s a lot of rather disparate components then, well, you’d be right. But this is from the author of Fight Club, whose bleak look on the human condition traipses through the majority of his work, often featuring flawed leading characters that we none-the-less begin to identify with. Take Victor – on the surface he’s a pig, a liar, a cheat, and happy to hump any woman that moves. But with flash-backs to his rather unusual upbringing, some touching moments where he tries to connect with his fading mother, and a charming warmth brought to the role by Sam Rockwell, you will find yourself rooting for Victor. Even when he can’t stop imagining the size of every woman’s boobs.
Alongside Rockwell is Kelly Macdonald, flouting a slightly odd American accent (she’s Scottish) and bringing some sweetness to the proceedings, but stealing the show is Anjelica Huston as Victor’s mother. Though current Orange adverts mock her crazier side it’s still fair to say she doesn’t half play a good mental, whether it’s as a dolled up and dangerous lady in the flash-backs, or an increasingly frail old woman in a hospice.
Like Fight Club there is a streak of sardonic humour (the funniest rape scene ever, believe it or not) and because of the subject matter, a heck of lot of dirty humour too (many boobs and flashes of rude, err, positions). But Fight Club’s edgy nature was matched perfectly by Fincher’s erratic direction, turning Chuck’s work into one of the best films in Cinemafool’s experience. Choke is directed by Clark Gregg (an actor, and his first time behind the camera) with a jaunty backing track as Victor trots through the scenes, dampening the fizz and crackle of some of the dialogue or sentiments delivered.
There’s no doubt this is a good film. Original, funny, engaging with interesting comment on how we might choose to live our lives. But there are a few holes, certain relationships not being given full time to develop, and certain plot strands popping up and then disappearing where you feel the novel would have continued. It’s no Fight Club, but it stands tall among some of the shite out today (too many chirpy sing-a-longs for my liking…) and so gains a CF2. Welcome back cinema. Thanks for having me.