Choke's Hold

Originally Published September 19, 2008 on

It’s fall again, so say “goodbye, superheroes” and “hello, Sundance favorites!” Leading this year’s pack is Choke, a dark comedy that wades elbow-deep into indie-friendly themes like alienation and sex addiction. It even lets a little hope and sun shine on its offbeat characters.

Based on the novel by gay Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, Choke follows Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a sex-addicted med-school dropout who pays for his demented mother’s (Anjelica Huston) expensive health care by choking himself in restaurants to gain the sympathies (and cash) of his rescuers. When his barely lucid mom mumbles incoherent hints of who his real father is, a search for answers leads to a new purpose, maybe even a new calling. The man behind this ace ensemble is a seemingly unlikely first-time director: By day, Clark Gregg costars with Julia Louis-Dreyfus on CBS’ sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine (he plays her ex-husband). But he’s not some indiefilm poseur; Gregg, who also wrote the screenplay, has a firm hold on these characters — and the audience. Choke may have a seasonally appropriate lack of Hollywood pyrotechnics, but it grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

Choke opens September 26 from Fox Searchlight.

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