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Film Friday

Chloe doesn't quite earn its shocking twists Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

Chloe

  • Directed by Atom Egoyan
  • Written by Erin Cressida Wilson
  • Starring Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson
  • Classification: 18A

Chloe is director Atom Egoyan's foray into the realm of what might be called artful trash. This is a high-toned erotic thriller, handled with style and some emotionally raw scenes, aiming for an effect that's pleasingly unnerving, if not outright arousing.

Produced through Ivan Reitman's company (with Jason Reitman as executive producer) and with high-profile stars Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried, Chloe is Egoyan's most commercial project so far. This is also the first film Egoyan has directed using a screenplay written by someone other than himself; Erin Cressida Wilson ( Secretary, Fur) based the cleverly constructed script on the 2003 French film Nathalie, about a jealous wife who hires a prostitute to see if her husband can be tempted.

Though this fable-like premise may not have been his idea, Egoyan makes it his own. To start, he sets it in his home town of Toronto, which effectively becomes another character. Landmarks from Yorkville to Queen Street emphasize the city as a place of urbane privilege, with frequent angular shots of glass structures adding an undertone of menace. Egoyan also taps into one of his most typical concerns - the torturous ways people seek to connect with each other.

Chloe begins with a voiceover by the title character, a young call girl preparing for a date. "I've always been good with words," says Chloe (Amanda Seyfried). She goes on to list some of the techniques she uses to satisfy her male clients' erotic fantasies. We catch a brief glance of a naked body in a mirror as she puts on lingerie, her work uniform.

Catherine (Julianne Moore) is a different kind of sex professional. A Toronto gynecologist, she can discuss orgasms with her patients, but is distressed when her teenaged son, Michael (Max Thieriot), has his girlfriend sleep over. She also suspects that her husband David (Liam Neeson), a popular music professor, may be cheating on her.

After an out-of-town lecture, David misses his plane home, as well as the elaborate surprise birthday party Catherine has planned for him. Later, she discovers a suspicious message on his cellphone and believes she has caught him in a lie.

Wretched with jealousy, she decides to seek out Chloe, the innocent-looking prostitute she meets by chance in a restaurant washroom. Her plan is to have Chloe pose as a student and go to the restaurant where David regularly eats lunch to see if he tries to pick her up.

After the first encounter, Chloe has just enough to report to keep Catherine worried. There are subsequent meetings at restaurants and hotels, where Chloe does double duty, tormenting Catherine with her encounters with David, then serving to comfort her. Gradually, she entwines herself in other aspects of Catherine's life as well.

Through the movie's first half, the emotional rawness of Moore's performance keeps the story grounded and credible. Chloe is an enigma, not so much a fully-rounded character as an agent of change. As played by Seyfried, she's an ever-watchful, moon-faced woman-child who studies her client's face intensely to read her reactions and gauge her next move accordingly. We hover somewhere between empathy and tension: Is this The Girlfriend Experience or Fatal Attraction?

That said, for a smart film, Chloe has an awfully corny ending, including some lurid high-jinks and shocks that teeter on genre satire. Lesser movies might behave like this, but we expect more from Chloe the movie and Chloe the character, a couple of charlatans we came to care about.

Follow on Twitter: @liamlacey

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