At the Movies with Kevin: Choke delivers

Both profound and provocative, Choke accurately demonstrates the isolation a sex addict would experience in a world where orgasms are not considered part of the social norm. Victor, played by Sam Rockwell, knows he has a problem but lacks the will to fight his insidious habit. He sees women as objects, sex toys, not because he is a chauvinist but rather for the fact that he has no self-control. Victor views women anatomically because their appearance is the only thing that interests his compulsion.

As you can imagine, Victor is a fairly sadistic individual who goes to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings, targeting easily swayed women for his sexual conquests. His mind only revolves around how to attain his next orgasm, and this is an easy way to achieve his goal. Victor feels no joy after sex, just the release someone gets after ridding themselves of a massive burden.

In addition, Victor also has a scam going in which he carefully chooses a yuppie restaurant, chokes on the food, and then milks his savior for money over a number of years. Supposedly, he does this purely for money, but his ulterior motive seems to be the inclusion he feels in these peoples’ lives counteracts his outsider role because of his disease. Victor’s favorite part of the experience is when he is embraced by the stranger, bringing levity and momentary healing to his heart after he felt abandoned and used by his mother as a child.

Victor’s partner in the degradation of society is his best friend Denny (Brian William Henke), a chronic masturbator who, despite being in his thirties, lives at home with his parents. Both of them work at a theme park where the theme is American colonization with Lord High Charlie (Clark Gregg), a man who takes his job far too seriously. Charlie is similar to the Steve Carell character on The 40-Year-Old Virgin in that he is a nice man who consistently loses women to these perverted parasites.

Victor visits his mother (Angelica Huston) daily in a mental hospital, always pretending to be whoever she wants him to be, without attempting to convince her otherwise. This is a relaxed state because of the alienation he felt growing up as a doll in her con games. The way she treated him is the same way he uses women, simply with a different perspective and in a more physical rather than psychological way.

Victor claims he quit medical school when his mother went into the hospital, but it could have just as easily been because he became too excited when his class was set to dissect naked bodies. At the hospital, he allows all of the women to portray him as any one of their fantasies, knowing their loved ones may not come as often. Victor meets Paige Marshall (Kelly MacDonald) at one visit, a woman with a soul as equally tortured. Paige is a doctor who offers him a way to use his talents for a scientific purpose, beginning their relationship that blossoms as the film goes along.

Their relationship is a complex examination of two damaged people with demons that need exercising before they can have a mature connection. Victor is a person whose orgasms come easily with people he has no emotional relation with, but are impossible to attain when he truly cares about the individual. This is a deep-seeded mental block that prevents him from believing that he, or anyone else for that matter, deserves all the treasures of true love. Because of this, Paige, who has unresolved hidden issues of her own, constantly is pushed away by Victor.

Above all, the film illustrates the limitless talent that Sam Rockwell possesses as one of the best American actors working today. Rockwell refuses to play characters without extreme personality flaws because he realizes that is where his talent lies. He played a game show host and CIA assassin in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a brilliant con man in Matchstick Men, and an alcoholic father in Snow Angels with each excellent performance continuing to exhibit a range unparalleled in today’s cinema. Rockwell relishes in these roles because of his devious face that is traveling in 12 different ways, none of them good, with unseen forces at work beneath the surface.

Rockwell plays Victor as an extraordinarily obsessed and intelligent man who could have achieved great things. If his favorite muse had been money, Victor might have been one of the most successful people in America, and may have graced the cover of Business Monthly. Because his main focus was sex, the only magazines that interest him have naked women on the cover.

Choke reminds me of Secretary, a 2002 film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, both in its frank and sometimes graphic exploration into the depths of human sexuality and in the way it tempers everything with humor. Secretary dealt with individuals who craved their roles as masochists and sadomasochists as part of their identity, while Choke deals with a man who associates himself and the people around him only with sex. Although it sounds like a pleasurable existence, Victor’s erections are simply a metaphor for his soul reaching out and the excrement represents the tears he constantly feels that he cannot otherwise discharge.

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