Chloe (with Amanda Seyfried)
Now, this is a thriller. I recently reviewed THE GHOST WRITER, the latest Roman Polanski political movie that claimed to be a thriller. It had some mysterious moments, but by and large I felt little tension throughout, and the ending fell flat for me. Atom Egoyan’s psychological/erotic thriller CHLOE is a film that lives up to its billing as a thriller, riding a wave of great performances by solid, seasoned actors, and one newbie who is impressing me with every new role. The film also serves as a welcome primer for those husbands eyeing infidelity. Liam Neeson commits many mistakes early in the film: excessive flirting, IMing people then quickly shutting off his screen when his wife comes up behind him, and above all not monitoring his cell phone 100% of the time (have we learned nothing from Tiger Woods?). But this is not simply a tale of a husband’s affair in the vein of FATAL ATTRACTION, though it does play off of that formula, and Julianne Moore as the put-upon wife and Amanda Seyfried as the title character allow CHLOE to transcend the formula to combine the erotic with the psychological to provide real tension on two levels for the audience. And Amanda Seyfried is just dead sexy.
Julianne Moore as a Toronto wife, Catherine, also gives us a lesson in what not to do: do not plan a surprise party. For her husband’s birthday, she plans a surprise party, inviting all his friends to surprise him as he comes back from his lecture to music students in New York and he calls and cancels. Upon his return, David (Liam Neeson) gets a phone message from a student simply reading “Thanks for last night.” Of course, Catherine sees it. Separate cell phones, guys. Aside from the infidelity, times are tough enough at the couple’s household, with their son, Michael (Max Thieriot) in therapy and having more sex than Mom. In her attempt to prove her husband’s infidelity beyond a shadow of a doubt, she hires a prostitute she can see working the streets from her multi-windowed gynecological office. Chloe, played erotic but also somewhat innocent by Amanda Seyfried, is the hired pro, and as she meets David she reports back each encounter in sexy detail. This is as far as I want to go into the weeds of the story, because the third act of this opera is where the wheels really come off the wagon. As Catherine wants to call off the trysts between Chloe and David, she strangely feels closer to him through the erotic replay from Chloe and can’t call it off…and then Chloe comes to the line of scrimmage and starts calling audibles of her own. In not knowing where she’s going next or why, that is where the true tension comes in…and watching Catherine twist in that uncertainty adds a level of excitement as well.
Julianne Moore carries the brunt of the dramatic weight in this film, but carries it with that sadness and desperation we have seen in her in MAGNOLIA and THE HOURS, but there is a reason she has been so acclaimed in such roles. Julianne Moore runs the gamut of all emotions of aging women, unfairly cast into a system of marriage that sees men age more gracefully, called distinguished, while women grow wrinkled, flabby and solely designated as old. She hires Chloe first out of investigatory purposes, then sees her as the only window back to the man she loved, making her tragic but also immensely sympathetic. Meanwhile, Chloe plays a number of emotions, from the conniving co-conspirator to the hapless victim, then back to calculated vixen. And did I mention she’s dead sexy. Huge eyes that pull you into every emotion, and a rockin’ body she shows off whenever she can, but also in the context of the story. Liam Neeson plays his role reserved, as this is a movie about the women and how they react/behave to this situation, but he still plays his scenes to pitch-perfect perfection, and when Julianne Moore has to deal with all the things thrown at her so unsuspected, she deals with them in a realistic way, never overacting or self-congratulating, and that makes the movie’s emotions that much more real. The final act is a hodge-podge of good parts and scenes for all the actors, so I won’t give that away, but I will suggest this film to all those seeking a thriller. Put off THE GHOST WRITER until…I don’t know, until it’s a Lifetime Channel World Premiere. In the meantime, watch this film.