Synopsis: In Choke, Victor is a sex addict who pays his mother’s hospital bills by pulling cons on people after they think they have saved him from choking. When his mother’s dementia worsens Victor is forced to come to terms with his life and their relationship. Along with the relationships he has with any women in his life and himself. The film is about a personal journey, of a very impersonal type of man.
Release Date: September 26, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy
Choke may not be for everyone. The subject matter is not easy to handle and much of the dialogue is not for the faint of heart but it is an exceptionally fulfilling film. For being made on such a small budget and with a very tight shooting schedule it made the most of a thought-provoking character-driven adaptation that is worthy of your time.
From the moment the film begins the audience is introduced with a voiceover that is written so smart, and with such quick wit that the dark humor of the story is revealed. Focusing on addiction, a subject where laughter may be seen as crass or unsympathetic, the way the voiceover is written takes away the feeling that it is wrong to find humor in the main character’s situation for he himself sees the humor of the situation. Through his poignant voice, you are welcomed into his addictive world and given the opportunity to respond as you so wish, and more than likely with a smile.
The film continues to delight with this style of writing and truly portrays the characters and their emotions, their triumphs and failures, and the small nuances that make them desirable to the audience, either for their complete dysfunction or absolute purity in a world that is fraught with disappointment and angst. It would be unfair to give credit purely to the screenwriter, Clark Gregg, for many of the lines come directly from the book the film is adapted from but his adaptation is remarkable for the screen. In a movie world where adaptations fall short time and time again this film will delight a fan of the novel as well as engage someone who has never read the book.
As an audience member, you will find yourself coming away from the film muttering lines so fantastic it would be a sin to forget them. They may be explicit at times, and at others simply hilarious in their rawness, but throughout the entire film, you will discover that words say so much more than you ever thought possible.
The performances in the film are most enjoyable to watch. Sam Rockwell created Victor as a man you love to hate and feel an increasing case of empathy for as his past relationship with his mother is revealed. He is far from being likable, but you cannot seem to dislike him either. It may the expressions on Sam’s face as he carries a line so precisely and so moving, even when it is demeaning or crass, that you find yourself enamored with the character. Wanting to know more and experience all he has to offer.
Anjelica Huston as Ida, Victor’s mother, who is suffering from dementia, is breathtaking. Her performance is not overdone and overwrought with emotion for being ‘sick’. Instead, she is strong and fragile at the same time. Her eyes show a level of expression and emotion that is difficult to watch at times but you cannot help but stare. Even in the flashbacks of the film when she is young and free-spirited she has this intenseness when dealing with the Young Victor. A penetrating gaze that is not to be reckoned with and yet full of love and a protective nature.
This is a low budget film. With that said the polish many filmgoers are used to seeing is non-existent. It is raw, the lighting is unimpressive, the shots are basic and at times awkward. The film has an overall graininess and the set design is nothing to get excited about. There is a great deal of hand-held camerawork and it is not as smooth as one may desire. All of these ‘negatives’ actually work astoundingly well with the subject matter of the film. Due to the subject matter and the state of the characters, it is appropriate that it not be ‘pretty’ or ‘bright’ or ‘eye-catching’. Life is not always pretty, and films that reflect life need not be also.
This film uses editing as a means to portray thoughts. It is not a sequential order of things, even though the film does move forward normally, but instead, editing is used as a mechanism to show what the main character, Victor, is experiencing at a given moment. It is performed so smoothly, or purposefully jumpy, that you feel as if you are being thrust into a flashback, a dream, a retelling, a picture, just like Victor.
Through this method of editing, you are undoubtedly made to inhabit the world of Victor and the way his mind works, for better or worse. It is only further stylized by the fades and dissolves used throughout, which possibly stand in for chapter openings and endings for it feels that as the story shifts one of these effects is deployed. Even the normal movement between scenes is excellent. The cut on action is superb. A line will be spoken or an action performed by a character and before one can even fully process it the scene will cut and move on to another moment. It makes for a thoroughly engrossing and expressive film where the art of editing is portrayed.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Clark Gregg
- Cast: Sam Rockwell (Victor Mancini), Anjelica Huston (Ida J. Mancini), Brad William Henke (Denny), Clark Gregg (Lord High Charlie), Kelly Macdonald (Paige Marshall)
- Crew: Joe Klotz, Tim Orr, Roshelle Berliner, Venus Kanani, Suzanne Crowley, Mary Vernieu, Nathan Larson