3 out of 4 stars
By Michael Clark
Never one to shy away from depressing or lascivious subject matter, arthouse Egyptian-born Canadian director Atom Egoyan delivers the closest thing to a mainstream movie he'll ever make with "Chloe." The relatively graphic and extended nude scenes of its two high-profile female leads will be more than enough to lure in curious fence-sitters who will also be able to navigate the not-too-complicated plot with ease.
Touching on many of the same themes Egoyan explored in his self-penned "Exotica" from 1994, writer Erin Cressida Wilson adapts Anne Fontaine's 2003 "Nathalie" screenplay and crafts a seedy, sexually drenched thriller from the rare female perspective.
Of the four main characters in "Chloe," two are women and both pull all of the strings and the males are regarded as mere pawns or disposable play-things. For this reason alone the movie deserves high marks for originality, gender smashing and sheer chutzpah.
Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) is a high-dollar Toronto call girl whose luxury apartment is visible from of the office of gynecologist Catherine (Julianne Moore). Catherine sees Chloe come and go with many well-to-do men and decides, with much anguish and reservation, to hire her. Thoroughly convinced her handsome, gregarious and often too-friendly professor husband David (Liam Neeson) is a serial philanderer, Catherine wants to wave Chloe in front of him to see if he'll bite and thus confirm her suspicions.
All business and maybe a bit too frank with her descriptions of bedroom play-by-play, Chloe's blunt approach to their professional relationship at once eases and exacerbates Catherine's inherit paranoia. Catherine wants to know the truth but deep down she really
doesn't. A woman who speaks to other women in clinical, barely cloaked terms, Catherine's trust of Chloe becomes immediate and total.
Adhering strictly to a Hitchcock blueprint by way of Brian DePalma's "Dressed to Kill" and virtually every Adrian Lyne film, Egoyan frames the movie with alternating deep warm and steely cold hues. So expressive and telling are the visuals that any attentive viewer can discern what's going on by merely reading the characters' body language, checking out the set designs and not hearing a single word of dialogue.
This isn't a derogatory aside to Wilson's script as much as it is a compliment to Egoyan's talent at fully utilizing his medium. Hitchcock once stated that if an audience couldn't figure out what was happening on the screen at any given moment without sound, they were watching an inferior movie.
Like many a thriller before it, "Chloe" reveals its big plot twist too early on in the third act and steals a bunch of its own critical thunder. But even when displaying her entire hand and telegraphing the inevitable train-wreck ending, Wilson still manages to keep our undivided attention for the duration.
"Chloe" won't redefine the thriller genre (nor does it try) and even when aspiring to high-end aesthetics and faux-European depth, it can't hide its own trashy, paperback novel core. It's not deep or intellectually challenging but looks phenomenal and pushes a great deal of universally familiar emotional hot buttons.
You might not agree with their methods but will likely concur with the filmmakers' intent. For anyone ever involved in a relationship where they might have felt slighted or spurned it will squarely hit home. (Sony Pictures Classics)