Published Mar 25, 2010Atom Egoyan is one sick piggie. Take a cross-section of the films he's directed and you'll find inside a plethora of sexual deviances and perversions: threesomes, brothels, secret affairs, cheating couples, incest. The man likes his films saucy. Chloe is no different, an erotic thriller where screwing (or being screwed) is just another way to get through the long, cold work day.
Catherine (Julianne Moore) suspects her husband David (Liam Neeson) of cheating, so she hires delicate doll-face escort Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to test his fidelity. Catherine, a practicing Ob-Gyn, declares to a patient early on that "an orgasm is just a series of muscle spasms," yet that one simple thing has the ability to rip the calm veneer off everyone she encounters.
It's not long before psychological warfare is erupting from all sides, and the term "sex as a weapon" finds new meaning. The foibles and follies of high-class escorts have found a new audience in the 21st century, after the successes of Secret Diary of a Call-Girl and The Girlfriend Experience. However, Chloe, feeling very early '90s, when erotica taboo breakers like Basic Instinct, Single White Female and Red Shoe Diaries emerged, never jumps beyond the echoes of its predecessors. (We are actually meant to believe that escorts still operate successfully in hotel lobbies instead of on craigslist.). Derivative and oddly un-sexy for a sex film, the stakes just aren't high enough for anyone to sit through the entire running time.
Amanda Seyfried is almost too ethereally beautiful, bathed in luminous halos and coifed in intricate curls in every scene. Her performance feels a bit manipulative however (by the hand of Egoyan, no doubt), and we never really feel any pathos for her highly cryptic character, even when she attempts genuine emotion. No one plays agitated paranoia like Julianne Moore, and she finds chemistry and depth to her character surely lacking in the script.
It's hard to watch Liam Neeson without being reminded that he was shooting this film when his wife Natasha Richardson died suddenly of a brain aneurysm (while skiing in Quebec). Considering that many of his scenes involve conflicts of relationships and love, that makes his performance all the more heartbreaking. Always the consummate professional, Neeson's broad spectrum of characterizations shines through this hardly a thrill ride thriller.
Unlike the hundreds of films that are shot in Toronto annually, yet mask it for Philadelphia, New York or Chicago, Chloe is shot as a love letter to the T-dot, blatantly employing the city's greatest locations for a highly stylized gloss over the eroticism. Café Diplomatico, Levack Block, the Rivoli, Sassafraz, the ROM, OCAD, AGO, Windsor Arms Hotel, Allan Gardens, etc. espouse Toronto as the silent protagonist of this story, omnisciently watching over our characters as they mess up their lives.
Ontario band Raised By Swans get countless shout outs throughout. To his credit, Egoyan knows the precise moments to focus his camera on his actors' random mannerisms and body language to show intention and state of mind. He makes them dine in Yorkville's sumptuous decors and live in Forest Hill's mansions to increase their sense of sad isolation. However, if bad scripts were music, Chloe would be a freaking brass band. Long time Egoyan composer Mychael Danna delivers a rousing soundtrack best enjoyed during the closing credits.
When it comes to erotic suspense, Egoyan was spot on in 1994 with Exotica. Pressing your luck always leads to disaster. (E1)