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Sundance and Sex

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Here in the cinemas of Sundance, sex is everywhere - at least on screen. As if the sight of Mary Kate Olson making out with Sir Ben Kingsley in The Wackness wasn't enough to make you choke, along comes Choke, an entry in the dramatic competition that twists sex into exotic new shapes. The movie is based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, which should tell you something. The author of Fight Club cooked up fresh shocks in this one. The book opens with these words:

"If you're going to read this, don't bother. After a couple of pages, you won't want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you're still in one piece. Save yourself."

Try resisting that. The movie version, adapted by director Clark Gregg, stars Sam Rockwell in the role of sex addict Vincent Mancini. Rockwell is now and always has been a swing-for-the-fences actor. And to see him screwing his brains out in various public places, including a recovery meeting, reveals a new side to his acting. Rockwell told me it took eleven hours to film one scene of him getting a blowjob in a confined space. When I mentioned there could be worse acting assignments, he said that they sent the girl home after two hours. "The other nine hours," he says, "was just me faking an orgasm." On the basis of this performance, Rockwell is hereby declared the Brando of cum shots.

As a movie, Choke is all over the place. But they plugged in a livewire with Rockwell, an actor with the skills to capture Palahniuk' s dark humor without missing the pain that keeps the character human. When the great performances of Sundance 2008 are tallied at the end of the week, Rockwell has to be up near the top. No wonder Fox Searchlight bought Choke for $5 million. Rockwell and Palahniuk are kindred spirits, fearless tightrope walkers in a Hollywood of image-shining wussies.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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