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‘Choke’ on this dark comedy

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By Bill Molina

By Bill Molina

The lights dim, the trailers end, and for the next 89 minutes you get wrapped up in the life of a sad sex addict who is trying to avoid getting his life together. “Choke” is why we go to the movies.

Sam Rockwell stars as Victor Mancini in a dark comedy about a lonely man who works as a tour guide at a colonial reenactment site, or “historical interpreter” to the ladies.

He voluntarily chokes on food at restaurants to scam the people who save him into giving him money.

Mancini also attends sex addict meetings, but usually ends up missing the group, because he’s having sex with the woman he is sponsoring, not to mention the scores of women we see him sleep with, in the past and present.

Every woman he sees goes through a flash of nudity, be they nurse or nun.

The first handful of sexual scenes are funny, but as they become more frequent you see the meaningless escapism that it truly is for him. The few golden seconds of clarity these encounters provide him via orgasm are a sight to behold.

Anjelica Huston plays his mother; she is in a mental hospital suffering from a rare type of Alzheimer’s disease. Never remembering her son, she mistakes Victor’s daily visits for someone else, telling them about her absentee son.

Her doctor, Paige Marshall, is played by Kelly Macdonald, whose innocence and sincerity to help Victor’s mother are palpable. Later we find out some of her ulterior motives, and they paint a more complex picture of what seems to be a simple character.

The film’s only flaw is the lack of music, the few pieces we get are short lived at best and aren’t dominant at all. The Radiohead song that plays during the end of the movie fits so perfectly it makes you wish there were more.

Rockwell’s performance is a masterpiece of despair and hopelessness: the slightest glimmer of hope within his character fills him with even more self-loathing and grief. He portrays the perfect anti-hero.

Seeing him pull off one of his choking scams at a restaurant is powerful cinema, as the audience is carefully guided through the entire process, even though his life is slowly dwindling, he avoids being saved by someone who makes even less than he does, like the waiter, or someone wearing a swatch.

Watching him cry into the chest of the person who saved him, while he tells us that “this is my favorite part”, caused me to actually root for someone who couldn’t possibly be more despicable. The narrative he provides us through the movie grants such insight, not only into the character, but into the nature of man.

The movie poses the question; do we let society dictate if we are saints or sex addicts? The end of the film leaves many doors open, but still has enough resolution to have you leaving the theater with a sense of accomplishment.

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