Film review by: Witney Seibold
Her teenage son is sneaking bubbleheaded girls into his bedroom at night. Her patients complain about orgasms. Her husband is very likely having affairs with his students. Outside her window, she often sees a pretty young hooker wandering in and out, a serene look of calm on her face. In Dr. Catherine Stewart’s world, everyone is getting laid but she.
So begins Atom Egoyan’s latest erotic thriller “Chloe,” a film with a surprising amount of gall, astonishing performances, and a plot that runs out two thirds of the way through. Julianne Moore plays Catherine, and she’s an actress I think we may be taking for granted; it’s so common for her to knock it out of the park that we are not astonished when she does. She manages to find a real person in Catherine, and make her decisions, dialogue, and budding sexuality all the more believable.
Catherine finds some circumstantial evidence that her long-time husband (Liam Neeson) has been sleeping with some of his students. She confronts him, but he’s such a charmer, he’s able to deflect her questions. Is it genuine charm, or is it secrecy? Catherine manages to meet up with the young hooker she’s been eyeballing from her office window. Her name is Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), who, in a voice-over, she admits that she likes the thrill of being a hooker, as she gets to become anyone’s fantasy. Seyfried is very game in the role, not only willing to disrobe, but play a more grown-up role than she’s had in the past. Catherine hires Chloe to seduce her husband, and see if he acquiesces, if, for no other reason, than to assuage her suspicions.
When Chloe begins to report back details, however, Catherine, rather than being moved to jealousy, actually finds the pornographic descriptions a titillating sexual outlet. Eventually their meetings become a sexual bond between the two women, and the film actually bothers to explore the sexual relationship that forms, rather than just being about crazy, jealous revenge. I give “Chloe” props for actually taking this relationship to its logical extreme, and not just because we’re treated to some immensely sexual scenes with both Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore in the nude.
Unfortunately the film eventually does begin to illogically wander down the path of “crazy wronged woman,” and we’re given a totally inappropriate climax, when something more adult was expected and necessary. Egoyan had, up until that point, given us an emotionally mature, sexually open, and gorgeously photographed drama. Why the screenplay decided it needed to double back into a lurid melodramatic thriller is beyond me. Perhaps Egoyan was so adept at elevating the first half of the film, that the second half felt hackneyed in comparison.
But bravo for going there. And bravo to Moore for her performance. She is one of the best.