Choke

by Rick Grant
A-
Rated R
89 min
Based on Chuck Palhniuk’s novel, and written and directed by Clark Gregg, this offbeat indie did well on the festival circuit. Sam Rockwell stars as Victor Mancini, a historical reenactor and self proclaimed sex addict. Confined to a nursing home, his crazy stepmother Ida (Angelica Huston) is dying of the last stages of Alzheimer’s. Despite being kidnapped and raised by her on the run, he still loves her. Victor’s sex problem involves his insatiable appetite for casual sex, but his addiction to pornography has cut off his ability to become emotionally involved with any of his sex partners.
The whole concept of sex addiction is controversial. Some psychologists think its junk science and that people who are suffering from this “addiction” just have an overactive libido, and as long as it doesn’t interfere with their lives, then there is nothing wrong with it.
However, for Victor, it seems to be distracting since he has numerous trysts with his working colleagues (costumed reenactors) and even a sex crazed girl at the sex addiction group therapy session. But, he is worried about his stepmother dying, which seems to occupy much of his life. To raise extra money for his stepmother’s expensive care, Victor fakes choking in restaurants. He visits her every day, and in his mind, he is still putting together the jigsaw pieces of his memories of his life with this delusional woman who, at an early age, lost touch with reality.
Victor’s best friend is his fellow “sex addict” Denny, (Grad William Hence) a chronic masturbator. Denny reveals in the therapy session that he masturbates at least fifteen times a day. Is he sick or just horny? Victor suggests that if he didn’t masturbate so much, his semen could back up and burst his prostrate gland. Nonetheless, Victor and Denny are trying to change but both “addicts” are having a hard time conforming to “mainstream sexuality”-whatever that is!
A young pretty doctor (Ida’s doctor) at the nursing home, (the only member of the staff Victor hasn’t banged) Paige Marshall (Kelly MacDonald) resists Victor’s advances but he begins to like her and when she finally gives in to having sex with him, he can’t get it up. Victor is puzzled by this new event in his life. So this causes him much consternation and perhaps justifies his therapy.
Writer director Clark Gregg plays the role of Victor’s boss, who always stays in character as the colonel at the reenactor camp. Gregg’s toughest job was to strike a balance between the black humor of his script and tastefully staging the sex scenes, which he did with verve and skill. Rockwell captures Victor’s angst and sense of humor perfectly as he carries on his casual sex acts without guilt. But when he starts to care about Paige, he longs for romantic love prior to screwing Paige like a randy stallion. .
Of course, Chuck Palhniuk’s story explores Victor’s search for the truth of his childhood. Did his substitute mother really care about him? He desperately wants to find out more about his life with Ida before she dies so he can find peace of mind. Clark Gregg’s adaptation of Palhnuik’s book presents Victor’s struggle for identity and a caring relationship that both satisfies his raging sexual desires as well as his emotional need for reassurance.
Although the scenario has humor, it is overwhelmed by the sadness of Victor’s dilemma. He never knew his real mother and his childhood was warped by Ida’s delusional world of fantasy. Still, it’s an intriguing character study that chronicles one man’s search for himself.

About FOLIO

april, 2022

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