Starring Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Nina Dobrev, Max Thieriot, Meghan Heffern, Laura DeCarteret, Mishu Vellani and R.H. Thomson.
Screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson.
Directed by Atom Egoyan.
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 96 minutes. Rated R.
Canadian director Atom Egoyan has made repeated visits to the heart of darkness and the murky underworld where sexuality and reality nearly meet in such visually inventive and thematically complicated works as Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter and Where the Truth Lies.
He delves into new territory with Chloe in the fact that for a rare change, he is not directing his own screenplay. Chloe is written by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) and based on the 2003 French suspense film Nathalie. Yet, for a good three-quarters of the film, Chloe fits squarely into the auteur’s inventive body of work, before a climax in which the film becomes much more pedestrian.
The film has an intriguing set-up, rife with possibilities of disaster. Julianne Moore plays Catherine Stewart a well-off Toronto OB/GYN. Her life appears to be perfect, she is married to David, a charming and respected music professor (Liam Neeson). They live in a huge modern home and has a college aged son.
However, a certain malaise has started to sink upon her marriage and when David misses a flight – and thus a surprise 50th birthday party which Catherine has been planning – the wife starts to obsess that her flirtatious husband is having an affair.
A chance meeting (or at least it seems to be at the time) with a beautiful young escort named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) hatches a plan in Catherine’s head – to pay Chloe to approach her husband and report back on what happens.
It seems like a foolish venture from the start and Catherine tries to cancel the agreement, only to find from Chloe that she has already approached her husband. In the weeks that follow, Chloe reports back to Catherine about the relationship. To Catherine’s surprise, her jealousy is mixed with a voyeuristic fascination by the whole situation.
Then, of course, it turns out that not all is what it seems to be on the surface.
Moore and Seyfried take on dangerous roles – they are often physically and emotionally naked – and each does strong, brave work in showing the humanity of their characters. Neeson’s character is somewhat more inscrutable (probably necessarily for the storyline) but he does a good job with what he has to work with in a role that is more reactive than active.
Unfortunately, all this great set up is eventually undercut by a pretty standard crazed-stalker climax. It is done slightly more artfully than most and a bit more symbolically – and yet it’s all a variation on something we have seen before… and often. It’s made doubly disturbing because we are not sure we believe that the character would go quite that far off the rails, though it is obvious through most of the film that they are somewhat disturbed.
The weak-ish ending does not undo the movie’s seductive power. The movie is still a charged and thought-provoking thriller. Here’s just hoping next time around the film will have a climax to match. In fact, a part of me is looking forward to seeing the DVD extras to see if there was a better alternative ending which may have gotten the ax by the studio or was found to be too disturbing by preview audiences.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 10, 2010.