DVD, Blu-ray Review
Directed by Atom Egoyan, Written by Erin Cressida Wilson, 96 Minutes, Rated R
By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti
As far as erotic thrillers go, "Chloe" seems to aim a bit more toward the former than the latter. Director Atam Egoyan, the acclaimed Canadian director of such films as "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Where the Truth Lies," has a definite eye for the erotic, both in how he films his actors and in the overall mood of his films. As a builder of suspense, however, he takes a bit too much from cliche to be entirely effective. Still, the film has a lot of merit in its psychological implications and its very solid performances.
The film follows frustrated doctor, wife and mother Catherine (Julianne Moore). She and her husband, David (Liam Neeson), have grown distant, and Catherine suspects David may be having an affair. From the window of her office she notices the day-to-day comings and goings of a call-girl named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), and after a chance encounter with her, Catherine asks the young woman to act as a temptress to her husband to see if he's really having an affair. Things don't quite work out that way, though, and Catherine finds herself in for more than she bargained for.
It's hard to entirely warm up to the film. A level of uneasiness is crucial with this kind of subject matter, of course, but the characters (particularly Catherine) are all so frustratingly abrasive that it's less unease that you're feeling and more just pure irritation. The conflicts between Catherine and her family are so thinly drawn that they feel less like serious conflicts and more like things tossed in the script to make things more complicated.
For the most part, all of the power of the film is in the final act. The twist--if you want to call it that, though it's really more of an underlying truth one could likely see clues to the whole time--brings a lot of the more simple and vague aspects of the film to a much stronger emotional level. There's a good deal of erotic tension between Catherine and Chloe, and before things really develop near the end of the film, most of the more sexual moments of the film (of which there are many, mostly quite, uh, impressive) appear more exploitative than emotionally relevant. Thankfully, that doesn't end up being the case, and there's more subtle psychology going on in the film than it lets on.
The performances help the film a great deal, with all three leads giving pretty impressive turns, particularly Seyfried, who seems to play rather dull characters more often than not, but who really comes to life here. Neeson exudes the charm necessary for this kind of role.
Really, the main problems are all in the writing. Sure, the final half hour or so fixes a great deal of the problems early on, but retrospect can only accomplish so much, and one can't help but be annoyed that the film doesn't really come alive until the climax. But the direction and acting is generally solid enough that the film never loses its momentum, and the whole is good enough that its parts are generally forgivable. It's far from the most profound or exciting thrillers out there, but it's certainly better than a lot of them as well.