Movie Review: Choke - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Movie Review: Choke

10/03/2008

This summer, actor David Duchovny reportedly checked into a rehabilitation center for sex addiction. For anyone looking for insight into that addiction or at least a quirky, funny, or interesting assay about the disorder, you'd be better off watching Duchovny's life-imitating-art TV series Californication. Despite having a main character that's also a sex addict, this film offers nothing even worth me writing this review.

CHOKE is the adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's book of the same name. Palahniuk is famously known for writing Fight Club, a mental conundrum dealing with an aspect of a man's psyche that was ultimately destructive. Its character enjoyed the abuse, whereas the main character here gets off on being saved, but not necessarily being the Savior.

Sam Rockwell (Assassination of Jesse James and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) stars as Victor Mancini who is an admitted sex addict and attends Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings. Yet, it's never explained why. He's a single man who appears functional in every other regard. Yes, he's a horn dog, a male slut, but that's not cause for a man to get a scarlet letter, or feel any tinge of guilt.

Being that sex addiction has yet to be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it would have been nice if the filmmakers here made more of an effort to really show us why this guy really is a sex addict and not just a normal, single, horny, white-blooded American male. None of the real manifestations or consequences associated with sex addiction is present here. I would have been satisfied if the filmmakers had merely answered this question. Why or what caused Mancini to go to these anonymous meetings? Mancini's womanizing comes to the chagrin of his boss at the historical theme park, but his job never seems to be in any real danger.

Is it that Mancini is finally sick of undressing woman with his eyes and watching their breasts no matter their age? Maybe he's sick of feeling that perfect, beautiful nothing we generally call an orgasm. Mancini makes a big deal over his. According to sex addiction experts, though, most sex addicts don't, so I'm curious as to what the filmmakers were trying to prove.

Director Clark Gregg, a long-time actor who makes his directorial debut, would have us suppose that Mancini's attendance to Sex AA is due to the deterioration of Mancini's mother, Ida, played by Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston. Ida constantly had her son on the run when he was younger, in and out of foster care as well. Now, she's elderly and after years of substance abuse is suffering from dementia.

Mancini seems to care about her, but for the most part he refuses to give up on her only because he wants to trick or guilt her into revealing whom his father is. When it's revealed that Mancini's patriarch may be Jesus Christ, he's sent into a tailspin.

Mancini asks his best friend Denny, played by Brad William Henke, about it. Denny is also a sex addict. Mancini asks Denny if he's like Jesus in any way. Denny stops masturbating to pictures of Ida to remind Mancini that he's still very much a jerk, and this really is the only funny moment in a story that falls flat.

It's flat because Mancini really makes no effort to change. His supposed attraction to a woman he meets at his mother's hospital feels contrived, as any woman would literally have to be insane to fall for him. Mancini is a jerk. He's not that good-looking, or well dressed. He makes little money. Despite strippers or other sex addicts, how is this guy able to satisfy his addiction? I could see if he were Duchovny or Brad Pitt, but he's just a little too busy to be that lucky.

All the sex here is meant to mask a severe lack of a story that may have been present in the book, but it was sorely lost here. Even the explanation of the title isn't given a proper due. At one point, Denny tells Mancini, "You can't fool people into loving you." He was right, and the filmmakers can't fool the audience either of doing the same.

One Star out of Five
Rated R for strong sexual content
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.

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