DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: TIFF 2009: Chloe

Tuesday 15 September 2009

TIFF 2009: Chloe

Chloe (2009) dir. Atom Egoyan
Starring: Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Max Theriot


It’s a shame ‘Chloe’ turned out to be what it is. For two thirds, it’s an entrancing Hitchcockian thriller under the filter of Atom Egoyan sophistication. Unfortunately a concerted effort to stay in the mainstream sees the film play out on the straight and narrow path toward cliché and familiar genre storytelling - thus revealing itself as nothing more than a recycled sexual genre thriller from the 1990’s.

Catherine (Julianne Moore) is a sexually frustrated doctor married to David (Liam Neeson), a university professor, both lead busy lives and barely have any romantic time for each other. Their teenaged son, Michael (Max Theriot), is just discovering the joys of sex and spends plenty of time locked in his bedroom with his girlfriend. When Catherine suspects David of cheating, she’s not so much upset as jealous of him. Enter Chloe, a sexy high priced call girl who plies her trade in the same posh upper class Toronto restaurants as Catherine. After a brief meeting Catherine tracks her down offers her a proposition to flirt with her husband as a test of his fidelity.

Chloe turns the trick, and gets paid and reports back on the results. Not satisfied with just one encounter Catherine pays her again and again to increase the affair, the effect of which actually turns Catherine on. Catherine and Chloe's relationship deepens creating a situation even more dangerous than a naughty affair.

It's Julianne Moore’s picture here, our hero really, carrying the burden of the action and with all the emotional conflict on her shoulders. It’s a demanding role to manage the direction in which her character sways - from sexually frustrated alpha-female to emotionally naked sex slave - but Moore pulls it off. Seyfried is alluring when her character needs to tease us with her mantrap flirtations. Egoyan even opens up eying her stunning nude body being clothed, shot discreetly of course with carefully placed camera angles. Her big blue eyes and lusciously full lips are nothing short of perfect. When her dangerous side is revealed so does Seyfried's inadequacies, failing to convince us her psychotic obsessions don’t rely on the “Single White Female‘ or ‘Fatal Attraction‘ precedent.

Egoyan’s biggest strength has always been his ability to hide and reveal information for maximum emotional impact. Maybe it’s the linear narrative or the genre requirements which hold him back here but it’s a predictable and unmemorable course charted. As the chess pieces are setup brilliantly I was hoping the film wouldn’t go where it appeared to be headed. And as the running time clipped along the realization slowly set in that it was the only place it could possibly go. And so, by the third act we find ourselves in a full fledged 1990’s sexual thriller, no more intelligent, original or sophisticated than anything we’ve seen before.

Going through the credits it’s easy to see how this picture went off the rails - or stayed on the rails, depending on your perspective. Ivan and Jason Reitman are credited as producers (instead of the arthouse-leaning Robert Lantos) and the ones who found the property and recruited Egoyan. Its the first picture where Egoyan hasn't written his own script, and the mainstream direction the film goes has someone else's fingerprints all over it.

It’s Egoyan’s most mainstream film which perhaps might satisfy audiences put off by his usual psychology ruminations but it will likely only tease naughty boys looking to catch sight of Amanda Seyfried's lovely breasts.

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