Rockwell's Sex Gags
"Choke" is one of those movies which left me unsure how I felt about it, almost confused by what I had just watched. But the confusion doesn't come from the story, infact whilst "Choke" has a story which is all over the place going from a son and a mother who is fading away from Alzheimer's to the son's sex addiction problems it is very straight forwards. Nope the confusion comes from how I feel about it because this is a movie which in a blink of an eye can shift from humorous to being dark and it simply is a little strange. Part of that issue comes from the fact that the various characters we are introduced to border on enigmas because we never fully get to know them, watching them flit from being humorous to dark within the same sentence causing us never to full know how to take them.
Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) works in a colonial theme park and is also a sex addict looking for any opportunity to experience instant gratification even at sex addict meetings. But he also a scam artist, faking choking in restaurants in order to connect with people so that he can persuade them to send him money which he uses to pay the fees to keep his dying mother Ida (Anjelica Huston - Seraphim Falls) in a nice facility for those with Alzheimer's. It is whilst there that he meets Dr. Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald) who manages to make him reassess his thinking whilst he tries to keep his mother going so that he can discover who is father is.
To say that "Choke" is diverse would be no word of a lie, from a clever and unobtrusive narration from Sam Rockwell we enter the life of Victor as he explains he is a sex addict and for the first few scenes it is all about the sex. We have Victor having sex with Nico a woman he sponsors at a sex addiction meeting, we meet his friend Denny who has issues with masturbation and when Victor visits Ida at the care home we come to learn he is banged most of the female nurses. It's not titillation but very quirky as we can go from Victor seeing a woman and either imagining her naked or remembering banging her.
But this quirky and snappy opening evolves as we discover that as well as a sex addict he is a scam artist, making money from faking to choke to keep his mum in a reasonable care home. Now this is where a storyline of sorts evolves, one which still interweaves with sex because we learn that Victor had an unconventional childhood and wants to find out who his dad is before his mum dies or her memory completely goes. It's simple enough and when we meet Dr. Paige we have this aspect that maybe Victor has met his match in a woman who won't fall for his sexual charms.
What evolves from here without spoiling anything is Victor facing decision time in his life as Paige throws him completely off balance and in fairness it is very obvious to follow with an amusing ending. The trouble is that like how it flits between sex and then Victor and his mum the tone also shifts from humorous to dark and sometimes even a little comically disturbing. Because it snaps back and forth all over the place it never allows you to settle on being amused, disturbed or even touched by Victor's story. And this partly comes down to the fact that what we have are characters with no depth, we may come to understand that Victor's upbringing causes his grown up conflicts but the rest of the characters are just quirky people with no depth.
It's for that reason you get to the end of "Choke" and feel like you've enjoyed it but you don't know why. It's not that you won't have understood what you have watched because for what is a quirky movie it is simple to follow but you still will be left perplexed by whether you really enjoyed it or just bemused by its randomness.
What this all boils down to is that "Choke" is a quirky movie from story to style but it is simple to follow with everything made clear without every spoon feeding you information. Yet because it flits between tones through out it leaves you unsure on how you feel about it other thank thinking you enjoyed it without knowing why.