November 8, 2009

Chloe (2009)


Director: Atom Egoyan

99 min

Egoyan’s latest film attempts to transpose his arthouse aesthetic to a more mainstream setting. The last time he attempted to marry these two different demands was with 2005’s ‘Where The Truth Lies’, which produced mixed results. It wasn’t the wholly satisfying shot at a studio picture that one hoped for. But if at first you don’t succeed and so on. The basis of ‘Chloe’ is 2003 French film ‘Nathalie’, although one could never say it’s a direct remake as such. It borrows much of the basic premise, but Egoyan stresses that the second half of his film changes direction completely from how ‘Nathalie’ developed. The later plot developments in ‘Chloe’ are far more in keeping with Egoyan’s past track record as a film maker. It’s easy to see what attracted Egoyan to the project (it’s one of the few films he’s made that he didn’t write himself or initiate even). The screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, who wrote ‘Secretary’, pursues themes that Egoyan has tackled in several of his previous films; love as fantasy and obsession, the unreliable narrator, alienation, technology and so on. But even when working from another’s material, Egoyan is able to put his own stamp on the film.

Julianne Moore’s Catherine suspects her husband David (Liam Neeson) of having an affair, and hires the eponymous Chloe (Amanda Seyfried, demonstrating a range hitherto unseen) to seduce her husband and report back on the details. What could possibly go wrong?  What’s intriguing about this scenario is how Catherine’s motives quickly move beyond just trying to catch her husband in the act, but how she feels closer to him because of his adultery. She pursues the transaction with Chloe, even after Chloe attempts to end this arrangement. She needs to hear the gory details and doesn’t want to be spared. Egoyan uses ‘flashbacks’ of this affair, although when the truth about it emerges, you could kind of see it coming. What you don’t really see coming is the film’s second plot development. Egoyan rejects the notion that ‘Chloe’ sits amongst the other bourgeois family dramas about a woman spurned; ‘Fatal Attraction’, ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ et al. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t paint a picture of a stable, settled family life, but of course he considers his film more ambitious than these reductive thrillers. In keeping with his previous films, the revelation of the truth is stylishly done, the sexual scenes are artfully erotic, and the visual nature of the film; the sleek, glass interiors of the family home and the cold, icy Toronto locations, impresses. ‘Chloe’ threatens to go off the rails in places, and it probably does in fact. But a mainstream Egoyan film is always going to be interesting, and ‘Chloe’ is never but.


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