Thursday, October 21, 2010

Short Review: Chloe (Atom Egoyan, 2010)

Chloe, a remake of the 2004 French film, Nathalie..., is the newest film from Atom Egoyan (director of The Sweet Hereafter and Ararat). It is an erotic drama starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried. The film revolves around a married couple, Catherine (Moore) and David (Neeson), who seem to have the perfect life. Both are successful; David is a college lecturer and professor, Catherine a gynecologist, and they are quite wealthy and live in a beautiful home. To celebrate David's birthday, Catherine is throwing him a surprise party and is waiting with his friends at the house for his arrival in from New York. After ensuring the guests that he is only minutes away, she receives a call from David saying that he will be home late after missing his flight. Puzzled as to why, Catherine checks his phone the next morning and becomes suspicious of an affair when she sees a picture of David hugging one of his female students. By chance she meets a beautiful young escort named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), who she had spied from her surgery window leaving the nearby hotel with male clients. To ease her suspicions about her husband, she approaches Chloe and they reach a business agreement. Catherine asks her to stage a meeting with her husband and to tempt him to see if he is willing to be unfaithful. The marriage ultimately turns into a tumultuous mess as it becomes clouded with deception and mistrust. Chloe reports back to Catherine that she had met David in a cafe as instructed and had subsequent meetings and sexual engagements with him. Catherine is repulsed at the lengths Chloe has taken the agreement to, but also turned on by the details that Chloe divulges into, becoming jealous of her reported experiences with David. She becomes endowed with her own sexual desires for Chloe and the two startlingly share their bodies. With Catherine arriving home late after meetings and dealings with Chloe, David begins to suspect that Catherine is indulging in her own affair, while denying his own when he is reciprocally interrogated. The couple have a young sexually active and confused teenage son, Michael, who is musically talented but estranged from his workaholic, self-indulgent parents. Throughout the film, the three are at odds with one another about their sexual lives. This is especially notable when Catherine discovers that their son is engaging in intercourse with his girlfriend, opposing her frustration by David's disinterest in her. Chloe, who continues to torment Catherine by visiting her at her surgery unannounced and repeatedly calling, is rejected by Catherine who subsequently tries to pay her off. Chloe meets up with Michael and chooses to seduce him. With seemingly the entire family falling under the spell of Chloe, she now seems beset to destroy all of their lives. Revealing any more will subsequently destroy the film.

Solid as usual, Liam Neeson is well cast, and Julianne Moore is great, but the film belongs to Seyfried, whose luminous beauty and excellent performance really holds the film together. With her big eyes, flawless skin and cute smile, she is epitome of a sensual beauty. But her character manages to find a way to empower everyone around her with her effortlessly seductive nature. In the opening sequence which sees Chloe dressing in front of a mirror, there is a voice-over that explains her role as a call-girl, requiring the ability to please her clients with her words as well as her actions. When Catherine hires her, she insists that David is not the client, and Chloe takes this completely to heart. Visibly frustrated at first by Catherine's request, and then ultimately drawn to her beauty, Chloe becomes obsessed, choosing to pursue her own desires through Catherine's fragile and revealing state. She doubles as a psychiatrist, delving into the consciousness of Catherine and preying on her weaknesses, and as an actress; as she carefully constructs a situation that allows her to take full advantage over her life. There is an important plot twist near the conclusion that is really quite obvious to predict from sequences early on, but it still works because we find ourselves immersed in Catherine's blind consciousness, seeing what she clearly cannot. We find ourselves seduced by Seyfried's performance and don't realize just how manipulative she really is. The cinematography was stunning, really illuminating Seyfried's dazzling features. Egoyan's film has received mixed reviews and I thought it was a bit misdirected at times. The distressing script was a bit incredible too, and while I wasn't overly engaged for the entirety, I found it to be quite a clever thriller, with fine performances and some very sexy sequences.

My Rating: 3 Stars

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