Gag Time

rex21 Gag Time Choke
89 minuted
Written and Directed by
Clark Gregg
Starring Sam Rockwell, Kelly Macdonald, Anjelica Huston, Brad William Henke, Joel Grey

I don’t know what to tell you about a dismal bucket of nauseating swill called Choke, except to warn that if you spend hard-earned money to sit through it, you deserve to do exactly what the title implies. Based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the loony Oregon-based author of such literary horrors as Fight Club and the nauseating Snuff, Choke sets out with only one mindless purpose—to outrage, alienate and confuse readers and viewers alike. Directed and adapted from an unreadable book by an actor named Clark Gregg, who has been watching entirely too many noxious Charlie Kaufman flicks, it pretends to be about the lost world of sex addicts, but it’s not really about anything except how to make a movie with no lasting value. The fearless (and almost always wasted) actor Sam Rockwell plays a self-loathing sicko in sex-addiction rehab, where he recites the 12 Step program with fellow addicts (among them, would you believe, Joel Grey?) who believe “orgasms release endorphins, and endorphins kill pain.” You know, the kind of people who end up in emergency rooms with light bulbs in their orifices. When he isn’t mounting everyone with a manageable zipper and counting his own orgasms, he divides his time between playing an indentured servant in an 18th-century colonial theme park, where the mere sight of a woman milking a cow sends him into paroxysms of uncontrollable lust, and visiting an insane asylum for oversexed senior citizens (politely called a “constant care facility”), which houses his mother, a nut job named Ida Mancini, woefully played by Anjelica Huston—who seems to have temporarily taken leave of her senses—in wigs that look like Brillo pads. No wonder he’s as mad as an oversexed outhouse gerbil. All of his life, the old crone has forced him to believe he’s been cloned from the sacred foreskin of Jesus Christ, which she stole from the Vatican. Or maybe she kidnapped him from a stroller in front of a bowling alley while she was passing through Iowa. Neither version of his birth origin has any resounding impact, and it takes only a few minutes before you realize you couldn’t care less. Meanwhile, the film jumps back and forth in incoherent time frames between his childhood, when his mother used to break into the zoo at night and let the animals out of their cages, and the present, where his mentally challenged roommate and best friend Denny (Brad William Henke), a serial masturbator, collects rocks and drinks out of slug pans in people’s flower gardens. Mr. Rockwell’s character’s one talent is to elicit sympathy in restaurants by faking elaborate choking displays, which result in throwing up all over people’s dinners. Mr. Rockwell does more vomiting than acting. This is a comedy? No, just another in a long and regrettable line of bottom feeders made by hacks who make it up as they go along. Still nursing nightmares of Hudson Hawk, Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, and every movie ever written by Charlie Kaufman, I can’t exactly call Choke the worst movie ever made, but you get the picture.

rreed@observer.com