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Chloe: Sad state of affairs



Chloe (R)

Kimball's Peak Three

I didn't realize, going in to Chloe, that it is an English-language remake of the 2003 French film Nathalie. So as it unspooled, I found myself not pondering sexy, Gallic flicks, but instead wondering this: "Has Atom Egoyan been watching Fatal Attraction?"

I like Egoyan, the sensitive Canadian director of films such as The Sweet Hereafter and Adoration. And if he told himself, "I will make a sexy, nudie, art-house, soft-core porn flick with Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried and maybe more people will see my movies," I'm OK with that.

I just wish Chloe was more involving. And I wish that if Egoyan wanted to make a soft-core movie, he had made one that fully embraced its sexiness — where the sexy bits were a little more steamy and a little less mean and depressing.

Because this is a story about manipulation. About mistrust. About people who supposedly have an intimate relationship yet are unable to communicate. And when it gets sexy, it's a lie. It might be "hot" on its surface, beautiful bodies beautifully photographed doing things to each other that are, you know, ohmigod! But it's all more sad than anything else.

Not that there's anything wrong with sad. But even the sad here never jells into anything satisfying in the right kind of way.

Maybe it's just that I'd like my sexy, nudie, art-house, soft-core flicks to be a little healthier in the psychological department. I realize this request does not necessarily make for the best stories ever, but messed-up folk lying to the people they're fucking isn't automatically interesting, either.

There's Catherine Stewart, see, a Toronto doctor played by Moore, a goddess at portraying cold, clinical femininity. She thinks her husband David (Liam Neeson) is having an affair. After a chance meeting in a restaurant ladies' room with a high-class call girl, Chloe (Seyfried), Catherine hits on the notion of hiring Chloe to approach her husband — not as a prostitute but as a student. David works as a music professor, a job that regularly puts him in the path of easily impressed, worshipful young things — and his wife wants to know how he'll respond to a lovely, willing young supplicant.

Chloe complies and reports back to Catherine on what transpired.

No, I won't tell you what happened. But this is the point where Chloe starts getting tricky, from a storytelling perspective. It's all "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, etc.," of course, but not just from Catherine and Chloe and David's perspectives, but from Egoyan's and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson's as well.

There are layers of manipulation at work that we're not aware of at first, and whether you catch on to them quickly or are surprised by their unveiling, the motives that have been driving everyone to do what they did are never quite clear. Though I don't wish for such things to be overexplicated — and I would never expect a director of Egoyan's faculty to do so — they do need to feel organic, and not tacked on in a calculated way.

Yes, Chloe is elegant: designed with an eye toward reflecting the coldness and isolation of its characters, performed by a cast that is always a joy to watch. But it never makes that leap from aesthetically pleasing to emotionally rewarding.

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