Sunday, April 04, 2010
The involvement of Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson in Atom Egoyan's Chloe means a wider release for this deeply weird tale of an outwardly successful marriage that has come to, if not a fork in the road, then one of those crazy traffic circles found in European countries. Egoyan, best known for The Sweet Hereafter, has remade the French film Nathalie with a dose of Canadian chilliness and his usual unironic take on sexuality. Julianne Moore is well-cast and appropriately brittle as Catherine, a gynecologist whose failed surprise party for her husband David (Liam Neeson) sets off an chain reaction of events leading to a tipping point in her marriage. Catherine's suspicion of David's possible infidelities (there's a missed flight and some sketchy text messages) prompts her to hire Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), an escort whom she meets by chance in a restaurant bathroom. Chloe's assignment is to approach David, see if he flirts or is open to the possibility of an affair, and report back to Catherine.
Seyfried, the cute rising star of Dear John, reveals a previously unseen strain of raw sexiness as Chloe. In an opening voice over Chloe proudly declares her mutability; she can change herself according to the wishes of her clients, seemingly at the expense of her own personality. Chloe is of course a movie about two halves of the same women. Catherine finds the arousal in Chloe's descriptions of sex with David that her husband isn't giving her, while Chloe finds a warmth and intimacy with Catherine that her job doesn't afford her. (Catherine's attention to a cut on Chloe's knee is a key bonding moment) At the center of all this is Neeson, who opacity is just right. David could be a cheater or merely an overworked and slightly selfish faithful husband. As the sexual intrigue (which also involves Max Thieriot as Catherine and David's son) deepens some might be tempted to write off Chloe as porn for white wine drinkers, but Egoyan is on to something else. Sex in Chloe is an attempt at connection, not just a search for momentary pleasure. In Egoyan's conception both intimacy and eroticism are necessary not only to maintain Catherine and David's marriage but also for Chloe to come into herself as a person. I can't recall an Egoyan film with a conventionally happy ending; Chloe gives way slightly at the end to its thriller mechanics, but I left the theater thinking of the needs that moved two women to find each other.