Friday, March 26, 2010

Film Review – Chloe

Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson
Director: Atom Egoyan
Producer: Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck and Jeffrey Clifford
Cast: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Max Thieriot, R. H. Thomson, Nina Dobrev
Erotic thriller, 1 hour 36 minutes

This is new territory for acclaimed Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan. Chloe is his first official Hollywood movie. He was brought on to this project by Ivan Reitman’s company Montecito (Ivan Reitman is a producer and his son Jason is an executive producer). It’s his first film not written by him. Instead the screenwriter is Erin Cressida Wilson, who also wrote Secretary. As a result, it’s also his first film that’s told in a straightforward linear fashion.

The result is interesting, and won’t be to everyone’s taste. Or it will be to some tastes, but for other reasons such as the scenes of nudity by Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore, and their steamy scenes together. Certainly both are ravishing beauties, in addition to being fine actors. Seyfried's eyes are so large and hypnotic that they seem like something out of Sailor Moon.

But what makes this interesting is that Egoyan is a talented director branching out into new territory. He’s done erotically charged dramas before, but most have come in the form of fragmented, cubist puzzles. Here he’s working with Wilson’s script which is a loose adaptation of Anne Fontaine’s French film Nathalie... (which premiered at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival).

Julianne Moore plays the gynecologist Catherine who suspects her husband David (Liam Neeson) of an affair. She hires a prostitute Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to test his fidelity. But Chloe takes things farther than anticipated and Catherine loses control of the situation.

The set-in-Toronto story is pretty good, and the actors are generally excellent. The cinematography and art direction look impeccable. But Egoyan’s own direction gives the proceedings an overwrought melodramatic quality at times. Perhaps it’s his background with directing operas, where melodrama is not only acceptable but encouraged. Certainly there are moments that feel too stagey and unnatural.

Or perhaps it was a conscious decision to reference Alfred Hitchcock in the style of the film. Martin Scorsese did that too recently with Shutter Island. But he too had mixed success. The problem is that Hitchcock films themselves often feel over-the-top to our modern eyes, so using his techniques will create that same feeling. One key moment from Chloe in particular produced laughter, which I assume was unintended. But that happened when I saw Hitchcock’s Vertigo in a crowded theatre too.

Chloe is a flawed but nonetheless noteworthy movie. If it is a failure, it is a noble one. I consider noble failures much more interesting than the successes of a hack. With Chloe, Egoyan takes some chances and gives an indication of greater things to come.

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