11 April 2010

Review: "Chloe"

I confess, I will watch Julianne Moore in anything. From her awkward Boston accent on 30 Rock to her scene-stealing role in The Big Lebowski to her career best work in Far From Heaven, Julianne Moore is a brilliant actress. Her current film, Chloe, has a lot of positives that attracted me. It is directed by acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan (whose previous films include Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997), which was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards). Chloe is a remake of a 2004 French film, Nathalie, by Anne Fontaine (who also directed Coco avant Chanel). Erin Cressida Wilson, the film's screenwriter, had set the film in San Francisco, but at Egoyan's urging the location was changed to Toronto. According to the CBC, Egoyan had to convince producers Ivan and Jason Reitman that Toronto is an alluring and sexually charged city. Amanda Seyfried (television's Big Love and Veronica Mars, two of my personal favourites), one of Hollywood's newest it girls, stars as Chloe, the film's most pivotal role. Chloe, entangled in lies and assumptions, is a clever and classy film that sets out to provoke and challenge your point of view.

Catherine (Julianne Moore) is a wealthy doctor in Toronto's upscale neighbourhood of Yorkville.
Unhappy at home, Catherine feels neglected by her husband David (Liam Neeson), and completely ignored by her seventeen year old son Michael (Max Thieriot). She has gone to great lengths to plan a surprise birthday party for her husband. David, a university professor, was lecturing in New York the day of his party and missed his flight home to have a drink with an attractive young woman. The next morning she intercepts a message on David's cell phone, a picture of David with the young woman thanking him for the previous night. This only fuels Catherine's suspicions. After discussing the number of young girls (prostitutes) with older businessmen while celebrating David's birthday with friends at a trendy restaurant, Catherine meets the young Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) in the washroom. This interaction leads Catherine to track down the young call girl and offer her money to attempt to seduce David. Catherine is unable to imagine the effects of this decision and her secret dealings with Chloe eventually put her and her family's future in danger.

Chloe is Atom Egoyan's most mainstream film, which is saying a lot considering the highly sexual themes and imagery in the film. There are a great number of films which deal with wives who suspect their husbands of cheating, but Chloe takes this plot and gives it a new spin. The film is not about whether or not David is cheating on Catherine, but how Catherine's jealousy fuels the film's development. Julianne Moore is beautiful and electrifying as the vindictive wife, while Amanda Seyfried shows a considerable amount of maturity and restraint as the young temptress (although I have trouble believing that an upscale prostitute like Chloe would wear such an unflattering coat!). Roger Ebert talks about the film's conclusion in his review, and wonders if some viewers will find it arbitrary. I would have preferred if the film had ended a few shots earlier and left the ending more ambiguous. I understand the symbolism reflected in the last shot, but I believe that Chloe would have benefited from a less forced ending.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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