Directed by Atom Egoyan. Starring Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Max Thieriot. (2010, R, 96 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 26, 2010
Director Egoyan has lost his mojo, and no matter what he does, he can’t seem to reclaim it. His latest film, Chloe, leaves little room for the benefit of doubt or the good will upon which many of his films have coasted since 1997’s amazing, multi-award-winning The Sweet Hereafter. Once the maker of smart, polished, and erotically charged investigations into memory, family legacies, and communication impasses, his recent work has tended toward the turgid (Where the Truth Lies), solipsistic (Ararat), and pedantic (Adoration). With Chloe, Egoyan stumbles yet again, but this time in a new direction, toward the utterly ludicrous. Fortunately, the film doesn’t completely capsize until its third act; the first two-thirds are actually reminiscent of Egoyan working at his peak in a film like Exotica. And despite denials by Egoyan and his producers, the continuity of Chloe must have been affected to some degree by the production shutdown necessitated by the sudden death of leading man Neeson’s wife, Natasha Richardson. Still, what starts off as a plausible and provocative erotic thriller leads toward a laughable conclusion that perpetuates hoary clichés about femme-fatale lesbians who are driven by perverse longings. The script is by Erin Cressida Wilson, whose affinity for kink has been on full display in such films as Secretary and Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. The story is based on the 2003 French film Nathalie … by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel). Moore plays a woman named Catherine, who suspects her husband, David (Neeson), of cheating and hires the professional escort Chloe (Seyfried, who is seriously out of her acting league here) to tempt him and find out if he succumbs. Instead, Chloe engages in a wily, one-sided game of tempting Catherine with verbal descriptions of her trysts with her husband. The film is bound to be best remembered for its erotic scene of Chloe and Catherine fully naked and making love, a well-directed piece of skintillation that sticks out like a sore, throbbing thumb. Catherine and David’s sexually active son Michael (Thieriot) also makes for a troubling extra element in this chain of seductions. Working with frequent cameraman Paul Sarossy and music composer Mychael Danna, Egoyan also creates a provocative set that feeds off its realistic Toronto milieu and the couple’s open-spaced, angular home. While Chloe may seem reminiscent of Egoyan’s outlandish thriller Where the Truth Lies, it also calls to mind another would-be thriller about marital infidelity that starred Neeson and was utterly ludicrous: The Other Man.