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I read Roger Ebert's review of Chloe when the film hit theaters, and I don't really recall him geeking out over whether Amanda Seyfried or Julianne Moore has a more banging physique, so you won't find that here either. Eroticism non-stranger Atom Egoyan directs Moore, Seyfried, and Liam Neeson in an adulterous romp that enforces the old adage, "You get what you pay for." That sentence was almost as antiseptic as the film sometimes seems.
The phrase "sexy thriller" usually softens my edges instead of hardening them, but something about this film got to me. Chloe is really as enjoyable as you allow it to be. On one hand, it's formulaic and cold. On the other, it's a moving character piece. It all comes down to whether Julianne Moore is onscreen at the time.
Moore plays Catherine Stewart, a middle-aged wife plagued by the dwindling self-confidence that middle age often extracts. Her husband David (Neeson) is a college professor with hungry eyes that follow every young woman he sees. Her relationship with son Michael (Max Thieriot) is estranged due to Michael's rampant hormones and unconvincing teen angst. Once you factor in her career in gynecology, it seems that everyone has their sexuality on display except for Catherine herself. Her emotions plunge further when David mysteriously misses a flight home from the university, thus ruining a surprise birthday party Catherine had planned for months. When she soon sees a student's overly personal text message on David's phone, Catherine's worst fears are brought to light.
From her window-filled office, Catherine occasionally watches a petite blonde, the titular Chloe (Seyfried), escort men to and from a nearby hotel. One night, as Catherine and David are out with friends (David loves the waitresses), Catherine and Chloe have a "chance" meeting in the ladies' room. Sparked by Chloe's tears over the inadequacy of men, Catherine's maternal instinct kicks in, and the two share a moment, each intrigued by the other for entirely different reasons. Chloe's gorgeous face and body are the catalysts that Catherine needs to determine which direction her marriage is headed. She's going to set David up.
At this point, Egoyan has already cloaked things in restrained sexual tension. There are fingers that linger too long touching other fingers, kisses that should happen but don't, and skin that should be covered but isn't. Chloe is obviously comfortable in this territory but doesn't allow the characters to share in that comfort. Throughout the film, the idea seems to be about the sex that someone isn't having, rather than the people who are actually getting some. It's a theme that rings on long after the movie ends, despite the film's missteps in conveying that theme.
Catherine pays Chloe to meet David, but only to gauge his reaction. The goal is finding out how interested David is, not necessarily having Chloe take it to extremes. Later, Chloe shares the details of the meet, and though Catherine is visibly shaken by every word, a deep interest emerges. She pays Chloe to take it a step further, and as you can imagine, things don't turn into rainbows and gift baskets. The more Chloe tells Catherine about the infidelity, the further both Chloe and Catherine go over the edge.
Sounds like I've given away a lot, but I haven't. There's a lot of weird chemistry left to this thing. It's hard to talk about mysterious shit without feeling like a spoiler. The character of Chloe is intriguing, because there is always another layer to what she does. Seyfried always seems like she's on poppers, but it's not necessarily terrible. The character needs more development, but I guess the mystery lies in the brevity. Egoyan certainly loves her eyes, which are Seyfried's money spot anyway.
It all amounts to little more than nothing without Moore's anchoring performance. She is the jilted wife. She is the stunted mother. She is the wife who gets off a little on a whore's endeavors with her husband. Neeson is as quality as he usually is, but he's putty in Moore's hands. Despite his limited screen time, strong feelings develop easily against him based solely on the quiver in Catherine's lip, or her hesitation before saying something unwanted. It's a tortured character in the best way: realistic and taboo-laden. She must play the mother, wife, and lover, without singling out one approach per person.
When I was younger, I would have only liked Chloe for immature reasons, but I appreciate it now. As a film, it's decent, but the underlying fetishisms last longer than they should. After the cool-then-ridiculous ending, a second viewing is rewarded, and that means a lot for a movie of the last few years that isn't made by Chris Nolan. And it's not just for the utterly fantastic image of someone's breast against someone's stomach, though it's another aspect of the movie that's stayed with me.
Expect the usual features here. There are two deleted scenes, both of which add a more inane aspect to the story. Both deal with son Michael having run away with a music teacher 10 years his senior, and his hatred towards his mother for ending said relationship. It makes the weird mother-son relationship make sense, but barely. Second up, we have a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette that mashes together interviews with the cast and crew, as well as on-the-day shooting and things.
The most interesting feature is of course the commentary with Egoyan, Seyfried, and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson. Seyfried's input is mostly incidental, but Egoyan and Wilson present a number of ways to interpret the film. The film is based on the French film Nathalie, which apparently was more blunt in its subject matter, minus most of the mystery. Another good tidbit is that Ivan Reitman's interest fueled this movie's existence. Truthfully, Egoyan grates the nerves with all levels of pretension and over-glorification, but he's not Uwe Boll-proud, so it's okay. When it comes down to it, he's made a decent film that lingers with the viewer; perhaps more, but no less.
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