Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Movie Review: Chloe

Chloe ** ½
Directed By:
Atom Egoyan.
Written By: Erin Cressida Wilson based on the motion picture Nathalie written by Anne Fontaine.
Starring: Julianne Moore (Catherine), Amanda Seyfried (Chloe), Liam Neeson (David), Max Thieriot (Michael).

Atom Egoyan makes the mistake in thinking that his new movie, Chloe, is a serious exploration of sexuality. He believes that this movie has something in common with movies like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Last Tango in Paris or Damage. Instead, Chloe shares more in common with a movie like Fatal Attraction. Chloe should have been a guilty pleasure of a B-movie, featuring sexy girls acting sexy. But Egoyan takes it all too seriously. He gets his cast to buy into his ideas, and as such, the movie comes really close to actually working. Egoyan knows how to direct a movie, and Chloe has a great visual look throughout. Walking out of the movie, I was confused - I wasn’t sure if I had seen a great movie, or a terrible one. My rating reflects those mixed feelings.

The movie is about a long time married couple - Catherine (Julianne Moore) and David (Liam Neeson). She is a successful gynecologist in Toronto, he a popular music professor who splits time between Toronto and New York. When he misses a plane back to Toronto on his birthday - ruining a surprise birthday party Catherine had planned for him. When she checks his phone the next day, she sees a message that might mean that he is cheating on her. Devastated by this revelation, she decides to do something to prove to herself once and for all if he is cheating. She finds Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) and hires her to try and seduce David. Things, of course, do not quite go as planned.

The film is a remake of the 2004 French film, Nathalie, starring Fanny Ardant, Emmanuele Beart and Gerard Depardieu - a film that I seem to be in the minority in thinking was a little pretentious, and only mediocre (not unlike this film), Chloe is an erotic movie that twists and turns its plot all around. It isn’t long before Chloe is describing to Catherine - in detail - what her encounters with David are really like. This both disgusts and excites Catherine, who is drawn to Chloe more and more. And Chloe wants to get closer and closer to Catherine as well - even going so far as befriending her son Michael (Max Thieriot) for use later if things don’t go as she plans.

In Julianne Moore, Egoyan found the perfect actress to play Catherine. Moore has always been one of the sexually fearless actresses around. In films like Short Cuts, Boogie Nights, The End of the Affair, Blindness and Savage Grace she has proven herself to be utterly fearless when it comes to nudity and sexuality. Here, she plays a woman who is sexually cold to her husband - not because she doesn’t love him but because she doesn’t know what to do anymore. But as Chloe describes in detail what is happens between the two of them, she becomes aroused, and is drawn more and more to Chloe. Seyfried, for her part, is also excellent in the role. She plays Chloe first as a sophisticated call girl, but as the movie progresses, we realize that she is just a lost little girl in search of a family, and doesn’t know any other way to get it. These two performances are great, and make me want to overlook the other flaws in the film. The other performances aren’t quite as good as him. Theiriot isn’t really given much to do until the end of the film, and by then, we don’t really care about him. Neeson seems to be sleepwalking through his role. I understand that Neeson was going through a difficult time while filming this movie (this is the film Neeson was filming when his wife tragically died), but he really doesn’t do what it necessary to fill out this romantic triangle.

The problem with the movie is that it is too concerned on plot twists to truly explore what it sets out to do. I mentioned some other movies at the top of the list - Last Tango in Paris, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Damage - because those films were examples of films that explore sexuality in a meaningful way. With Chloe, the plot gets in the way of that serious exploration. And because Egoyan plays things so seriously, we cannot not quite enjoy Chloe as a guilty pleasure despite the steamy sex scenes in the film. The film is rather schizophrenic, never quite deciding what it wants to be, and as such it doesn’t really work. It isn’t surprising that Egoyan did not write this screenplay - which is a first as far as I can remember - because even when he has down this road in the past - like in the underrated Where the Truth Lies - the result is intelligent and sexy. Here the film doesn’t quite work. It’s not a bad film, but it is one that cannot decide what it wants to be.

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