Friday, July 16, 2010

Chloe: Who Wants to Watch Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore Make Out?


I had never seen a film by Atom Egoyan before, to the best of my knowledge. I may have to look up more of his movies if they're all like his 2009 film Chloe. Starring Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried, Chloe is a psychological thriller with erotic tendencies; I hesitate to call it a flat-out erotic thriller. Mostly because I didn't really realize that's what it was when we watched it... Until the erotic parts happened.

Catherine Stewart (Moore) is a gynecologist, throwing a surprise birthday party for her husband David (Neeson), a music professor. He's in New York giving a lecture, and is late coming back to Toronto, and misses the surprise party. Catherine begins to suspect he's having an affair, especially when she finds a text and photo on his phone from one of his students. After a chance encounter with a young woman in a restaurant bathroom, and frustrated by David's constant flirting, she hires the young woman, Chloe (Seyfried) to seduce her husband and confirm her suspicions that he's cheating. Things eventually take a turn for the scary when Chloe forms an obsession around Catherine, and in addition to David, seduces their son Michael (Max Thieriot). Full of twists, turns, thrills, and surprising sensuality, Chloe has a surprise twist ending to cap the whole crazy mess off.

Since the movie just came out last year, I can't in good conscience spoil it. It's a pretty good one, though; if you pay attention to how the story is being told, and some of the subtle details, you may see it coming. It's still interesting, though.

Where Sharky's Machine was almost unequivocally a violent tribute to manliness, Chloe is the opposite; it may not necessarily be feminist, but it does feature female characters in prominent roles, in somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum. Catherine is a strong, professional woman; although it's interesting that she's a gynecologist (though we only really get to see her actually doctoring in an early scene). Chloe, as a prostitute, is also sort of strong and professional, in a totally different way. They're both a little nuts, too; Catherine is so paranoid that her husband is cheating on her, that she wants to create a situation in which he cheats on her, so she can be proven right. Chloe forms an immediate and unhealthy obsession with Catherine, feeling a deep affection and attraction for her, attempting to inject herself into life as much as possible, even sleeping with Catherine's son. Chloe uses her sexuality as a weapon, and Catherine finds her sexuality shifting and morphing in unpredictable ways.

I'm not gonna lie, there are some pretty intense scenes with Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried. I knew to expect some of that, but the full extent of it was a surprise. I can't really use it as a selling point, but it was definitely a surprise, both in terms of the scenes being in the movie, and it was surprising that these two actresses would be involved in something like that.

Everyone's great in this movie; Liam Neeson is always interesting, and Julianne Moore is intense as a woman facing her middle age, her husband's flirtation, feelings of inadequacy, and her new, growing desires. Amanda Seyfried plays an unusual role as Chloe; she's manipulative, often violent, aggressively sexual, and often times entirely menacing. It's intriguing that as a younger woman and a less experienced actress, she can dominate so many scenes over Julianne Moore (not to mention physically and emotionally dominate Moore's character).

Egoyan seems to pay special attention to th sets, backgrounds, and especially mirrors throughout the movie. The mise-én-scéne is modern and simple; Catherine and David's home is large, modern, full of tall doors, tall windows, mirrors, paintings, and expensive equipment and furniture (which is just in the background, having nothing to do with the story, but showing their evident affluence). There's also an understated and nearly subtle connection between Catherine and some sense of Chloe's mother; Chloe wants to give Catherine a hair pin that Chloe's mother gave her when they first meet; she tries to give it to her again, later. Chloe tries to kill Catherine with it in the climax of the film, and Catherine is wearing it in her hair in the final scene and final shot of the film.

Chloe is an intense, surprisingly twisty modern erotic thriller. Again, this isn't normally a genre I enjoy, or even really watch (as in, at all), but I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I'd recommend it, if this is the kind of thing you might enjoy.

I give Atom Egoyan's Chloe three creepy bug-eyed starey shots of Amanda Seyfried out of five, or three completely unanticipated and random shots of various actresses naked, holy crap it was so weird out of five.

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