Chloe

Some of Atom Egoyan films are insightful, slow-burning examinations of people’s idiosyncratic means of connecting with those they long for. Some are not. He’s incredibly uneven as a filmmaker. For every Exotica there’s a Where the Truth Lies. Chloe, his new thriller whose plot immediately reminded me of last year’s Mike Judge comedy Extract, is yet another of his many missteps. Julianne Moore is a Gynecologist who suspects her Professor husband, Liam Neeson, of cheating on her. A chance meeting with Amanda Seyfried, a high end escort, leads to various tests of Neeson’s fidelity and, eventually, a more-than-she-bargained-for entanglement with Seyfried’s Chloe. Full of overdramatic music that makes every scene feel as if any minute Willem Dafoe is going to throw his hands up in agony while helicopters fly overhead, it attempts to be an erotic edge-of-your-seat ride in the vein of Fatal Attraction but comes off like a toned-down, arted-up episode of the Red Shoe Diaries.

In many ways the film comes off as just sloppy and thrown together. Example one: Moore and Neeson’s teenage son’s piano recital is used to demonstrate the growing divide between between Moore and Neeson. But, if that’s the case, what is the point of taking the extra two minutes to focus on the son playing the piano and bowing on stage? The son is such a slightly sketched character that I can only wonder if this scene maybe had greater import for his character but the scene wherein it felt relevant was cut. The rocky relationship between Moore and the son is addressed early and often but is never developed. Sadly, most of the son’s scenes just feel like filler and his character a cipher used simply to move the plot forward.

Example two: Moore gets a text from Seyfried during a scene in which Moore has lunch with her yuppie friends who then, playfully and excitedly ask her who she’s having an affair with, saying it’s obvious that that is the case. But aren’t affairs supposed to be fun? And aren’t your girlfriends supposed to be insightful and perceptive? Moore is a walking Valium ad – there are few scenes where her face is red, her lips tense and eyes half welling up with tears and half firey rage. Can one chew the scenery just with their facial expressions? If so, Moore is the John Malkovich of the face.

The real saving grace of this film is Amanda Seyfried’s performance in a scene early in the film. She meets with Moore in a hotel room, telling her that she has just slept with her husband for the first time. Seyfried lounges in a chair, blithely disclosing the details as Moore becomes overwhelmed with her arousal and jealousy. This is both the best and the worst scene of the film. It’s when Seyfried’s manipulative nature is most well performed and, for me, when I was finally sure what the twist would be. Unfortunately the next 40 minutes of the film plays it as if the twist wasn’t obvious while keeping the level of boredom at bay by jarring and pointless shifts of tone.

What I took away most from Chloe is a sense that Egoyan is somewhat of a misogynist. The female characters are crueler, sneakier and more unsympathetic than any Noah Baumbach could create. It’s amazing to think this script was written by the woman who wrote such a full and likeable female lead played by Maggie Gyllenhal in Secretary.

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