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Watch With Plenty of Liquids

Despite its title, Choke, is a nice, deep breath of fresh air during the fall film season, as Oscar-bait films start taking over from the summer blockbusters. Following the success of 1999’s Fight Club, Choke is the second adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s work. Once again you can expect group therapy sessions (in this case for sex addicts), oddball characters, hilariously uncomfortable scenes and, of course, many unsuspecting twists and turns along the way.

First time actor-turned-director/writer Clark Gregg (who you may recognize as Agent Phil Coulson from this summer’s Iron Man and also has a bit part as Lord High Charlie in this film) does an exceptional job of bringing the novel to the screen. He takes Palahniuk’s penchant for stream of consciousnessesque writing and creates a beautifully shot and compelling film. But, the true hero (or should I say anti-hero?) of this film is Sam Rockwell.

Rockwell plays Victor Mancini, a medical school dropout now paying for his delusional and dying mother’s (Angelica Huston) professional care as a historical interpreter at a Colonial Williamsburg-like reenactment center. Oh, he also chokes in restaurants at night in order to exploit his heroes for cash. And despite all of Victor’s shortcomings and bad habits (did I mention he’s a sex addict?), he’s the guy you root for and Rockwell plays this card with perfection.

He finds the perfect middle ground between being a pathetic loser and someone who is fighting against the rest of the world. During a visit with a mother she confesses she must tell Victor (she never recognizes him) the truth about where he comes from. Unfortunately, she never recognizes him! Luckily he has some help in his journey to find happiness and meaning in his life.

Denny (Brad William Henke) is Victor’s best friend and is also a recovering chronic masturbator. He’s the antithesis of Victor’s manic demeanor -- always mellow and always optimistic. But Victor’s true companion during his quest is Dr. Paige Marshall (No Country For Old Men's Kelly Macdonald), his mother’s nurse, who is willing to save his ailing mother's life at any cost (including having a baby for stem cell research) but who also becomes Victor’s true love interest and not just another notch on the belt. This cast of quirky character helps flesh out the film as the lonely Victor (accentuated by his meaningless sexual escapades) is really only looking for true companionship and love.

The film is not a home run but it’s a comically original tale and showcases Rockwell as one of Hollywood’s genuine talents. It’s also a great start for Clark Gregg who illustrates that he has a true gift behind the camera and definitely has a bright future as a filmmaker.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars