Choking Man’s Cartoons and Girls in Restaurants


Remember that classic 1985 music video for a-ha’s “Take On Me,” the one where that girl in the diner falls into an animated charcoal drawing? Since then, its director, Steve Barron, has had an eclectic career—he helmed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and produced While You Were Sleeping—but with Choking Man, his first independent film, he returns to his earliest preoccupations: cartoons and girls in restaurants. Choking Man takes place at a Queens diner randomly owned by none other than Mandy Patinkin, affecting a Greek accent. Jorge (Octavio Gomez Berrios), a sullen, greasy Ecuadorian dishwasher, is a modern-day invisible man who gives himself over to extravagant animated fantasies, but speaks no more than 30 words though the course of the movie. Meanwhile, his charming coworker Amy (Eugenia Yuan) is being courted by the boorish Jerry (Aaron Paul), which pleases him not a bit. Choking Man has a tepid plotline, some stilted dialogue, and way too many pointless shots of the subway rumbling overhead. But the tender and spirited performances of its diverse cast elevate Barron’s portrait of contemporary Queens life.