Review

Chloe

Director    Atom Egoyan
Starring    Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Nina Dobrev, Max Thieriot, Laura DeCarteret
Release    26 MAR (US) 5 MAR (UK)
2 stars

Christopher

7th March 2010

Chloe opens with a breathy voiceover, red nail varnish, a healthy amount of side-boob and the rolling down of suspenders in an indistinct, soft-focus boudoir. Boom: suddenly I'm a newly pubescent teenager and furtively renting Bruce Willis erotic embarrassment Color Of Night. A film that, even at that tender age of 14 (I developed late), I knew was crap. All I wanted was some porny thrills, not the shattering realisation that it was possible NOT to enjoy a film. This revelation was up right up there with finding out there's no Santa. (Thanks a lot Gremlins... Again, I developed late.)

So we're thrust back into the world of early nineties erotic thrillers. Fatal Attraction has a lot to answer for; look at the mini-genre you have spawned, Fatal Attraction. Look at it. LOOK AT IT! It's your fault that I now, over two decades later, have to watch this lumpy, depressing erotic thriller that is neither thrilling nor particularly erotic. I hate you, Fatal Attraction.

Anyway, back to Chloe. Here's some plot: Dr. Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) suspects her husband David Stewart (Liam Neeson, or possibly one half of Eurythmics, I forget which) of cheating on her with one of his many unrealistically attractive students. Catherine hires a prostitute, Chloe (played by the gigantic eyed Amanda Seyfried, who may have found enormous fame in Mamma Mia but will always be Veronica Mars' dead friend to me), to entrap her supposedly philandering husband. Lives proceed to unravel in a thoroughly unbelievable and self-prophesying sort of way.

[gallery]Director Atom Egoyan has a long history of brilliant filmmaking - The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica are truly two of the most underrated dramas of the nineties - but this is a serious misfire. There are many possible outside reasons for this: Chloe is Egoyan's first time working from a script he had no hand in writing, his first time working with Hollywood producers (Chloe is a Reitman father/son double team effort), and his first remake (of the much superior Nathalie starring Emmanuelle Beart, although it probably just seems superior because it's French). All these factors do not invoke much confidence, however they cannot be blamed for flat, unimaginative direction and a feeble script that Egoyan should have polished much brighter.

Chloe comprises of long scenes of dialogue, mainly involving Seyfried describing in detail to Moore her husband's transgressions. One of the few strengths of the film is the bizarre sexual connection that develops between the two women. Catherine begins to live vicariously through her husband by engaging in her own affair with the prostitute, thus experiencing the desire she no longer feels from him, and in a larger sense also connecting with David through Chloe.

However these scenes ultimately fail due to some wincingly mediocre dialogue that strives to be enigmatic, but comes across as laughable ("I used to love his hands. They used to grab me everywhere"). This is the film's worst crime; believing it's far more profound than it really is. Not only in the dialogue, but frequently in a score that forces drama where there is a definite lack of drama, and some overly portentous camera-work.

Characters too often opt for the most ludicrous decisions possible, therefore rendering them entirely unsympathetic. Your difficulty in caring for them also isn't helped by the fact they exist in a smug world of opulent dining, piano recitals, unthinkably well-attended opera tutorials and homes straight from the 'I went on Grand Designs and spunked a tiny portion of my annual wage, which is more money than you will ever rub on your naked body, on designing and building my own house because, even though I have no formal training, I think I'm an architect and it'd be wonderful to live in a building that looks like a gigantic ass, so now I'm off to have some unsatisfying sex with my hate-filled wife' school of architecture.

Despite all of this, Julianne Moore is superb. She is genuinely the only person emotionally invested in the entire film. However she's also been just as superb in much better movies. See them instead. See Boogie Nights for instance. Man, I wish I was watching Boogie Nights right now. That would make everything alright. Amanda Seyfried does competent work with the material she's given but suffers from bad direction. In a long close-up of Seyfried, just after being spurned by Moore, you can actually see the evil thoughts gather in her brain as the music swells and the shot becomes more intense. This is criminally unsubtle, immediately sign-posts the hokey resolution and unfairly reveals Seyfried to be a relatively amateurish actor.

And then suddenly it ends. You'd think it might continue in its long, drawn-out, oddly passive-aggressive way, but no; it shoe-horns in the most unearned and tonally dubious finale, straight out of Joe Eszterhas' 'Meh' folder of quick-fix ideas. On the plus side you can now leave the cinema, watch Boogie Nights, and be glad you have the life you have. At its heart, Chloe is a very slight and tender story ruined by monkey-fingered idiots.

I apologise for using the phrase 'father/son double team effort'.

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