Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan has garnered respect over the years for his long list of eclectic and stylish movies, including The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica and Felicia's Journey. Now with Chloe, his newest entry into the erotically charged pseudo-thriller genre, Egoyan cannot rest on his laurels, as his reputation will certainly backpedal as a result of Chloe, one of the most tedious movies I've had the displeasure of seeing.
Chloe begins promising enough, with Amanda Seyfried adorning black stockings and garters in soft-focused photography resembling a Penthouse magazine cover. While we listen to her monologue rationalizing why it's perfectly acceptable to be a prostitute because it's rewarding to be someone's dream girl, we stop and think, "How farfetched is this going to be?"
Based on the much more subtle and philosophical 2003 French film, Nathalie, Chloe was adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Fur) and tells of a married couple consisting of gynecologist, Catherine (Julianne Moore) and professor, David (Liam Neeson). The two are growing apart and also take turns ignoring their musical prodigy son, Michael (Max Thieriot). After David misses his own surprise birthday party and Catherine finds a suggestive photo on his phone, she becomes suspicious. Taking a page from Senator Larry Craig's book, she has a chance encounter in a bathroom stall with a prostitute, Chloe (Seyfried), whom she later hires to seduce her husband to see if he's cheating. Catherine is turned on by the recounted sex stories and this turns into a steamy lesbian affair that gets out of control. The twist involving these hot-and-bothered sex stories is so ridiculous that I had it figured out right away because, hey, if a hooker tells a story without proof, how do you know what to believe? When Chloe seduces Michael to become closer to his mother, the plot goes from stupid to ludicrous. Egoyan expects us to buy all of this by counterbalancing the film's heated impulses with what he perceives as cool visual sophistication and sparse production design, all delivered without a dose of humor.
The acting was passable, considering they're not winking at the camera and laughing at themselves. Moore likes to play troubled and conflicted, but that veneer is wearing thin. Neeson had some redeeming to do after getting "Taken" in his last movie, and here he holds his stoic own. It was nice to see Seyfried take on a sexier adult role. She manages to let us believe her simplistic, positive thinking, even as the script calls on her to rationalize her life as a prostitute. She finds, "something to love in everyone, even if it's the smallest thing. I mean, there's got to be something, right?" Yeah right, think positive and anyone with dough can slobber all over you.
Chloe is full of weird imbalances. All the scenes are lazily hacked together with a mild art-house feel, like it's too slick for its own good and the sweeping epic Disney-meets-Hitchcock soundtrack is more annoying than creative.
Chloe is neither an erotic mystery nor dramatic thriller - it's a soft-core porn dysfunctional hooker story steeped in melodrama, told in shorthand and played out in bad ideas. There are two depraved morals to this story. 1) The family that screws together stays together and 2) When all the cards are on the table, it's make out time. Though it sounds sexist, the only decent scenes are the sex scenes, but trust me - they aren't that good either.
Starring Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Rated R