A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this extremely mature comedy based on a novel by the author of Fight Club isn't for kids in any way. Every scene includes or deals with sex, nudity, sexual situations, and sexual acts. There's extensive nudity, and a few scenes depict sexual activity in unflinchingly graphic fashion. There's also drinking and lots of strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), and while the film ultimately has a message of redemption, the lead-up to that moment is filled with rough, raw content and images.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, CHOKE tells the story of Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a schemer and scammer driven to extraordinary lengths by his sex addiction and the challenge of caring for his increasingly senile mother Ida (Anjelica Huston). He supports her by relying on a network of benefactors who send him money; all are strangers he met by pretending to choke in restaurants and then imposing on their good will and kindness after they "saved" him. When Ida's condition worsens, Victor strikes a bargain with a female doctor at the rest home: Dr. Marshall (Kelly Macdonald) will try to get Ida additional care if Victor impregnates her. Victor observes that "I have sex with strangers because I'm incapable of doing it with someone I like"; ultimately, his relationship with Dr. Marshall, his mother, and his own needs all need to be reconciled with his desire to live a better life.
Is it any good?
The directorial debut of actor Clark Gregg (State and Main, The New Adventures of Old Christine), Choke is a scattershot satire that doesn't quite succeed. It covers everything from pop culture (Victor works as a "historical re-enactor" at a local park recreating colonial America) and sex (Victor's a sex addict whose 12-step meetings simply offer him the chance to have more sex) to the bond between parents and children (Victor's mother is a unreliable con artist, but, in her way, she loved him) and religion (as word spreads of Victor's possible origins as a half-clone of Jesus, various residents of his mother's rest home look to him for guidance and comfort).
But Choke is a little too sprawling, a little too unfocused. Rockwell is an appealing rogue, but the film's jumps between past and present, plot and subplot, make it feel disjointed; the story feels, if anything, too full of ideas. Most problematically, Choke is so close to Fight Club -- also focused on an unreliable narrator facing problems who's redeemed by the love of a woman with issues of her own -- that it simply feels redundant.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the nature of extreme satirical comedy. Is this movie intended to be over the top? How can you tell? What messages is it sending about sex and relationships? This movie was adapted from a novel by the author of Fight Club; what do this movie and Fight Club have in common? Families can also discuss the challenges of caring for an aging parent, as well as why people engage in compulsive behaviors.
- In theaters: September 24, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2009
- Cast: Anjelica Huston, Joel Grey, Kathryn Alexander
- Director: Clark Gregg
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content, nudity and language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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