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Behind the raunch "Choke" is a sweet love story

Posted at 3:41 PM on September 26, 2008 by Euan Kerr

Victor (Sam Rockwell) and his friend Denny (Brad William Henke) look for love in all the wrong places, this time at a strip bar. (Image courtesy Fox Searchlight - Jessica Miglio)

Victor Mancini is a disgusting individual. He says so himself, at length, in "Choke," the new Clark Greg adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel.

Victor's a sex addict who goes to a 12-step program, but really just as a place to meet women. He works as a historical re-enactor, but makes his real money by working a choking scam in restaurants. He's discovered that people who save an apparently dying man find new meaning in their lives. What's more when they send him money, as he puts it, it "renews their saviour experience." Victor is unrepentant in his claim he is providing a public service.

Yet as the story continues we find out Victor's life is really even more complicated. He needs the money to pay for the treatment of his mother Ida who is hospitalized with dementia.

Played by Sam Rockwell, Victor is tormented by his behavior, but doesn't know how to escape towards a more normal life. It doesn't help that Ida, (played with majestic mania by Anjelica Huston) even before her most recent illness seems to have been guided by a moral compass which spins like a helicopter.

"Choke" is a dark comedy, awash in raunch and questionable decisions. Yet director screenwriter Greg has captured the complexity of Palahniuk's characters and ultimately delivers a treatise on what it means to love and be loved. Like the novel it's a film where characters keep needing to be reappraised as each reveals more about themselves.

As may be appropriate for a film where the characters live as early American colonists, very little is as it seems sometimes,

You can listen to my 202 interview with Chuck Palahniuk about "Choke," and how he believes "Fight Club" is actually non-fiction here.

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