After the Fantastic Four films, I was feeling in the mood for a different kind of movie. Preferably without Jessica Alba. So, I watched Chloe. I don’t know what it is, but after watching Bully, I’m cautiously seeking out angst and tension. Perhaps I’m just indulging my inner whinging teen.
The first thing I heard about Chloe was that the young, toothy one from Mamma Mia! was doing her first “serious role” after famously lezzing off with Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body. I intially balked at the idea of Miss Seyfried comfortably holding her own with veterans like Neeson and Moore, but because both time and this blog have proven that I’m a bit of a knee-jerk reactionary prick, I decided I’d give the film a go. Also I heard it has a lot of nudity in it.
Chloe is a remake of the French film Nathalie… and has the same basic story. Chloe tells the story of Dr. Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) who starts to suspect her lecturer husband, David (Liam Neeson) of cheating on her. After a while, Catherine’s suspicions get the better of her and she hires the titular (in all possible senses of the word) Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), an escort, to tempt her husband to see if his eyes (and other parts of his anatomy) are indeed a’ wanderin’. The story itself is sound and often quite gripping, but it ultimately falls apart in the third act, undoing any atmosphere the first two acts created. Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson are both good, but neither of them put in a career-defining performance. However, I truly think Amanda Seyfried is great in this. I’d previously written her off as sappy rom-com fodder, due to her being in mawkish toss like Dear John, but she puts in a solid performance tinged with an unsettling creepiness.
In my admittedly limited opinion, America can’t do mainstream eroticism well. The term “erotic thriller” personally conjures up terrifying images of Mickey Rourke’s leering face in Nine 1/2 Weeks or Willem Dafoe trying to burn some acting out of Madonna with candle wax in Body of Evidence. Whilst Chloe is definitely better than those thudding anti-boners, it does suffer some of the same problems. Part of Catherine’s anxiety is her waning confidence in her ageing body, not being able to turn her husband’s head like she once did. However, Catherine is played by Julianne Moore-a glamourous Hollywood mainstay who has a body most women would kill their beloved household pets for. It undermines the very point the film is trying to make which results in a confused overall message.
There are some genuinely surprising twists in the tale, but a lot of the main plot points are concluded very predictably. As I said, the third act collapses under its own weight and left me feeling quite cold. It’s a shame as the film does have some decent moments up until then. There’s a fantastic scene where Catherine asks Chloe how she deals with her less attractive clients and she simply replies that she just tries to “find something to love”. The main mystery of Chloe the film and Chloe the character is her motivation. Sometimes it seems it’s the money driving her, other times it seems that Chloe is just a sensitive young woman who has a gift for ignoring peoples’ defects and focusing on one small, loveable detail. Later on in the film, when Catherine bluntly states to Chloe that their “business transaction, which is what this was, is over! “.The hurt which is evident on Chloe’s face is palpable and empathy is immediate. Atom Egoyan keeps us guessing what Chloe’s all about throughout, which is admirable in an age where most people seem to want their films to have 2 dimensional characters and all loose plot threads tied off.
So, Chloe. It’s a well-acted character piece let down by a trip to Ridiculous Plot Advancement Land two-thirds of the way in. It’s too psychodramatic at times, but there’s some decent dialogue and ideas here that balance it out. However, I can’t help but feel the whole film isn’t nearly as important as it believes it is and as a result it’s more of an anxious gasp of a film than the sustained, steamy web of intrigue it would like to think of itself as.