Director: Atom Egoyan
Producer: Ivan Reitman
Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson
Starring: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried
Studio/Run Time: Sony Pictures Classics, 99 min.
Strong acting and weak directing leave erotic thriller with more fizzle than sizzle.
An erotic thriller can’t be good if it’s neither erotic nor thrilling—and Chloe is barely either.
The film stars two Oscar-caliber actors, Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, plus the best actress from Big Love
, Amanda Seyfried, all directed by Atom Egoyan. I walked in hoping for something in the vein of Fatal Attraction
. Unfortunately, halfway through the film, I found myself thinking about Poison Ivy
If you don’t remember Poison Ivy—and why would you—it’s about a crazy-eyed Drew Barrymore seducing her new friend’s dad, played by Tom Skerritt. It was laughable, and it was supposed to be. Chloe isn’t supposed to be, yet a handful of cringe-worthy moments prompted some misplaced giggles from the audience.
Chloe’s narrative centers on an older couple’s malaise in a 21st century world of intercepted text messages and suspicious IM sessions. In this case, successful OB/GYN Catherine (Julianne Moore) is trying to inject some much-needed passion into her marriage to her wandering-eyed professor husband David (Liam Neeson). She throws him a surprise party—which he doesn’t attend because he “missed his plane.” He really did miss his plane, but she’s suspicious, and eventually intercepts an illicit text message between David and a young co-ed. In a self-punishing move, she hires the titular escort Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to tempt David—and because clearly it’s impossible for any red-blooded man to resist a secret rendezvous with Amanda Seyfried in the local greenhouse, it works!
Moore and Neeson deliver verite portrayals of the tensions that often arise in long-term relationships. There’s a heartbreaking scene where the couple contemplates when and why they stopped picking each other up at the airport; you think that they’re going to fall into bed together, but they stop just short, as though their marriage is utterly beyond salvaging. Egoyan neatly paints Moore’s character into a corner where all she sees is beauty and youth passing and fading. The cinematography perfectly captures the grandeur of Toronto, further underpinning this point. You can see the pain in Moore’s eyes (and the slight wrinkles that surround them) as she sees all of the gorgeous men and women who flit into and out of her orbit. You can understand why she needs to find some answers in a life she fears is quickly passing her by.
But in the end, Egoyan’s clinical style just isn’t right for this script. Chloe is an intriguing psychodrama trapped inside of the body of an erotic thriller. I wanted to learn more about Chloe, as opposed to her just being a cookie-cutter crazy girl with a curiously-beloved hairpin. I wanted the sexuality to bubble over on-screen, like it does in all good erotic thrillers. I wanted the last five minutes to not force me to bring up Poison Ivy in this review. Because that’s not what you want from your arthouse bedroom drama. Unless you secretly titillate to Poison Ivy. In which case, Chloe is perfect.