Atom Egoyan | 2009 | 99 mins | USA / Canada / France
Atom Egoyan's latest foray into the murky world of sexual intrigue, real and imagined betrayal, desire, longing and jealousy is a great, slow-burn thriller, up to a point. That point comes toward the end, and while the final act doesn't completely ruin the film, it certainly does make it a bit of a mess.
Chloe is really Julianne Moore's film. Her performance and the complexity of her character far outshine everyone else, though Amanda Seyfried's titular Chloe is also pretty compelling.
Moore plays Catherine, a rather prim gynecologist who's married to charming and flirtatious university professor David (Liam Neeson). Their luxuriously comfortable lives are busy with lecture tours and nights at the opera, their teenage son Michael (Max Theriot) has started tuning them out, and when David fails to turn up for his own surprise birthday party due to a missed flight, Catherine begins to suspect he's been unfaithful.
Catherine is beautiful, poised, perfectly put together, but obviously struggling with the fact that her husband gets handsomer with every wrinkle, while she feels herself fading into the background, no longer an object of anyone's desire.
Catherine's "woman of a certain age" is perfectly juxtaposed with Chloe, the very young high-priced escort who works out of a hotel near Catherine's Yorkville office. When Catherine decides to hire Chloe to try to seduce her husband, in order to prove to herself that her suspicions about him have been right all along, it's easy to see that things are not going to work out well for anyone involved. As Chloe and Catherine's relationship becomes more tense (sexually and otherwise), Seyfried's character flits between giggly teenhood and seductive womanhood all with the unhinged undertone of Fatal Attraction-esque obsession. Chloe needs love, and she wants it from Catherine, whether the other woman is aware of this fact or not. Egoyan is a master of twisted desire and disturbed sexuality, and Chloe delivers on the red-hot intrigue. Unfortunately, in the final act, the film's tone of simmering suspense turns a bit absurdly over the top.
Major bonus points for Egoyan's insistence on revising the originally San Francisco based script in order to give Toronto a chance to play itself (for once). It's both delightful and a bit strange to see locations like Cafe Diplomatico, the Rivoli, and Queen Street's streetcars not masquerading as someplace else. That works, even if the plot doesn't always.