I sort of wanted to see this one when it came out, but it was only at the multiplex a week or two before fading away. Now that it's on video, I finally got the chance to watch it On Demand.
"Choke" when I think about it puts me to mind of one of those Judd Apatow comedies like "Knocked Up" or "40-Year-Old Virgin" if there were more nudity and a little less hokum. Like those aforementioned movies, "Choke" focuses on a guy who hasn't grown up and accepted responsibility quite yet.
In fact, Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell, who excels at playing ne'er do well types) has a lot of issues. He never knew his father and his mother used drugs and participated in some kind of illegal activities such as breaking out animals from a zoo--during which Victor lost part of an ear to a lynx--that he frequently is a ward of the state until his mother kidnaps him again. To compensate for this vacuum of love, Victor pretends to choke at restaurants to make well-off people think they've saved his life and take pity on him by forking over some money. His "love" life consists of a series of meaningless, often perverse trysts that has him enrolled in a sex addict support group, which he largely skips to have sex with one of the other addicts. Oh, and he works at a Colonial Williamsburg-type place as a tour guide.
Adding to all this mess is that Victor's mother (Anjelica Huston, who at this point is starting to look like Rosemary Harris from the "Spider-Man" movies) is in an expensive nursing home. Whenever Victor pays her a visit, she thinks he's one of the many lawyers she used over the years.
While at the nursing home, Victor meets Dr. Page Marshall (Kelly MacDonald, who maybe you'd remember seeing in "No Country for Old Men") who offers Victor a clever way to possibly save his mother's life. She offers to have sex with him to create an embryo from which stem cell tissue can be taken and used to treat his mother. As a sex addict, this seems simple enough for Victor, but he finds himself suddenly impotent. If you want to overthink the situation you might think subconsciously Victor doesn't really want to save his mother--he certainly has every reason to hold a grudge against her for essentially ruining his life--but the more plausible explanation is that he's in love.
The rest of the movie follows Victor as he tries to clean up his act and come to terms with who he is, not to mention his relationship with his mother. There are some bizarre twists here along the lines of "Fight Club"--another Chuck Palahniuk book. As well, there's the parallel story of Victor's best friend (also a sex addict, whose series of meaningless trysts are all with his hand) finding a love of his own and cleaning up his act. Everything doesn't come together the best and some of the bizarre twists are kind of dumb. Still, it was an entertaining and interesting movie so long as you can put up with the nudity and sex stuff--this is definitely not for the squeamish. One thing I would have liked would have been to know a little more about what was up with his mother in the early days; even after watching the movie twice I wasn't entirely clear on this. If you like a raunchy comedy with a little more depth than an Apatow film, then this one might be up your alley.
BTW, here's a couple of fun facts I learned on IMDB: Writer-director Clark Gregg appears in the movie as Lord High Charlie, the head of the colonial town where Victor works. He might be more familiar to viewers as the SHIELD agent in last summer's "Iron Man."
As well, Kelly MacDonald had a cameo as a reporter in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," which co-starred Sam Rockwell as the ne'er do well president of the galaxy.
Now you know--and knowing's half the battle.
My score: 2.5/4 stars
Metacritic score: 47