Sony Pictures Classics | USA | 96 mins
I hold Atom Egoyan in high esteem above most filmmakers, for a deeply personal reason in that we share an Armenian heritage. As a filmmaker myself, I look up to him as both a role model and established auteur with an impressive body of work that has reflected themes of memory, identity and perception that I often connect with. However I cannot endorse his latest commercial effort Chloe, a paltry predictable erotic thriller that despite its killer cast, falls victim to its own conventions.When David (Liam Neeson) misses his flight back home to his wife Catherine (Julianne Moore), it casts a shadow of doubt in her mind about his fidelity. Matters grow worse as the next morning she finds a text message from a female student on his cellphone. What’s a successful working doctor to do? Test her husbands fidelity by hiring a call girl to seduce him of course. A call girl that conveniently sells tricks near Dr. Catherine’s private medical office and who she then encounters randomly in the restroom of an upscale restaurant. This of course is where the titular character Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) comes into the picture, along with unintended consequences for the repressed Catherine who suddenly finds herself in a rabbit hole of sexual intrigue.
The script penned by Erin Cressida Wilson, the mind behind Secretary and Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, is actually a remake of a 2003 French film by Anne Fontaine called Nathalie. It also marks the first of his 13 features that Egoyan hasn’t written himself. So you combine the facet of a remake and a script that has not been thoroughly combed for plot problems by the director and you have a recipe for an extremely foreseeable fate.
Perhaps this is why the film feels a bit detached from Egoyan‘s normally restrained storytelling, as the narrative progresses it becomes painfully obvious what’s going on. The element of mystery and intrigue vanish within the early stages of the relationship between Chloe and Catherine, and does little to go beyond the typical cliches of the genre. While the ensemble cast is impressive, Seyfried‘s attempt as an enigmatic prostitute with emotional baggage is laughable at best, and seems like a weak attempt by the producers to alleviate her from the typical tween roles we associate her (Mean Girls, Dear John). Despite trying to give her edgy dark material, the only allure mainstream audiences are left with is a brief glimpse of her nude body. There is also a kind of vapidness in her eyes that makes every scene she’s in feel empty and soulless. It doesn’t work and she is the biggest pitfall of the film.
Moore is the one anchor of the film, if there is any, but even she is forced to make decisions that feel overtly silly and illogical, occasionally making you want to fist palm your forehead. Neeson is severely underused and barely has any screen time to make much impact in the film, except for a few moments of erotic flashback that are just too awkward to be plausible. It’s feels like the the characters are nothing more than puppets caught in a merry go round of lies. And while Egoyan’s style is still definitely in tact, with echoes of his previous films Exotica and The Adjuster, the ambiguous nature of Chloe leaves the viewer feeling hollow.
Chloe is a film mired down by the predictable formula established by the likes of Fatal Attraction, while aspiring to be something more meaningful than it is. It feels at times that Egoyan sorely wanted to create a layered Hitchcock masterpiece but never seems to hit the ground running. There is a cool visual motif of mirrors and shooting through windows to touch on the reflective nature of the characters but all that falls to the wayside. Ultimately, all you are left with are calculable plot devices, twists and turns that are as cliche as the late night erotic thrillers that probably inspired the original film.
5 out of 10