Atom Egoyan is one of the most interesting directors around. Whether exploring the boundaries of the psychosexual thriller [the incredible Exotica] or the depths of despair [The Sweet Hereafter], his films are usually genuinely affecting and insightful. Chloe – a remake of the French film, Nathalie – returns to the realm of psychosexual thrillers, but seems somehow disconnected from its audience.
Chloe [Amanda Seyfried] is the high class call girl whom Catherine [Julianne Moore] hires to determine if her husband, David [Liam Neeson], is cheating on her. Her suspicions are based on a morning after text from one of his students [found by removing his cell phone from his packet while he’s in the shower] and the fact that he missed his flight home from a work-related conference. When Chloe relates her experiences with David to Catherine, things go ever so slightly awry.
With Chloe, Egoyan is working from a script by Erin Cressida Wilson [Secretary], based on Nathalie, written by Anne Fontaine [Coco Before Chanel]. It’s hard to tell if there’s that gets lost in translation, or if Egoyan wants us to access his characters from a clinical remove. Both Moore and Neeson seem to be in a more dangerous film than the one we are watching, while Seyfried’s lively, assured performance is the only one that has any sparkle – and she really does go for it.
The pacing is appropriate for a thriller – deliberate, without ever feeling too slow – and the film’s score is appropriately moody. The problem is more that the closer we get to something approaching danger, the less urgent the film feels.
In a film of this kind, the audience is expected to wonder who is in control; who is actually doing what to whom; is there some kind of moral issue being examined; can we rely on the camera to be objective? With the exception of one staggeringly hot scene, though, Chloe is never quite disturbing enough to encourage questions – let alone any of any philosophical [or even sexual] depth.
Chloe [the film] looks good – as good as Chloe [the character]. Egoyan is nothing if not a master of setting up shots and making interesting choices. The problem is that with Chloe [the film], there really isn’t much beneath the surface – except when it comes to Chloe [the character]. Despite their best efforts, Neeson and Moore can’t make David and Catherine interesting enough for us to care.
Seyfried, however, emerges from the film not only unscathed, but the sole participant to actually earn response from the audience. She’s shown herself to be a real talent with real range. That’s not enough to recommend Chloe [the film], but it is enough to warrant keeping an eye on her future projects.
Final Grade: C-