Happily married with a talented teenage son (Max Thieriot), Catherine (Julianne Moore) and David Stewart (Liam Neeson) appear to have an idyllic life. But when David misses a flight and thus his surprise birthday party, Catherine's long simmering suspicions rise to the surface. Suspecting infidelity, she hires an escort, Chloe (Amanda Siegfried) to seduce her husband and test his loyalty. Catherine finds herself 'directing' Chloe's encounters with David; Chloe's end of the bargain is to report back, the descriptions becoming increasingly graphic. But Chloe isn't quite what she seems and the family is pushed into danger.
Review by Louise Keller:
Suspicion, adultery, lust and sex for money are the lurid ingredients in this psychological tempest of temptation. A tantalising thriller with explicit sexual content, the film is also a love story, made not so simple by the florid set up and narrative. Chloe is riveting viewing - most of the time. It does stumble and falter, but has enough going for it - namely a superb cast and a director who knows how to create near unbearable tension - to grab our attention. Part of the film's appeal is that it is a chameleon, leading us along an unexpected path and making U-turns when we least expect it.
Everything about Atom Egoyan's film is interesting. Erin Cressida Wilson, who wrote that ultra black 2002 film Secretary, in which Maggie Gyllenhaal fulfilled James Spader's sadomasochistic fantasies, takes credit for the screenplay, which is based on Anne Fontaine's controversial 2003 drama Nathalie about a prostitute whose assignment is to seduce her client's husband for motives that can only be described as 'complicated'.
Amanda Seyfried is hypnotic as the sensual Chloe, the striking blonde who notices everything and tries to find something to love in everyone. It is in that first seductive glimpse (in a beguiling state of undress) that she tells us is as important to be able to describe things, as it is to do them. And describe things she does, in vivid, sensual detail to Julianne Moore's distraught wife Catherine, when suspicions about her flirtatious husband David (Liam Neeson, superb) reach boiling point. Moore has never been so vulnerable, baring not only her clothes but her dignity. Max Thieriot is suitably naïve as Michael, the teenage son who inadvertently becomes the fourth player in this sexual chess game in which hearts are discarded like pawns.
Set in Toronto, where steamy sex fogs up the windows as the snow melts outside, the film looks fabulous - whether it is inside Catherine and David's ultra modern symbolically tiered home or in the secret greenhouse couched in exotic trees. Relationships are forged, transactions completed and emotional chaos created. It's an intriguing film whose illusion is shattered well before the end. Pity, because this cast is as good as it gets.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Three terrific screen actors stumble into this seemingly titillating story about a wife who suspects her husband of infidelity and hires a call girl to see if she can seduce him. The premise doesn't really hold water and our credulity is stretched, just as it was in Anne Fontaine's 2003 original, Nathalie. Egoyan, with a pretty good track record, (eg The Sweet Hereafter, Ararat, Where the Truth Lies), is seduced by the premise but like Fontaine, fails to make it work. There are too many false notes to overcome.
In our review of Nathalie, Jake Wilson called it "a wish-fulfillment fantasy for middle-aged women, extracting some mild thrills from a masochistic romantic triangle and a coyly eroticised relationship between the two female leads, before returning to safe 'normality' via a final twist that any half-awake viewer should be able to spot a mile off."
Nothing's changed in the remake, except the cast: Amanda Siegrfried's Chloe "spins softcore fantasies . . . while the camera fixates on [Julianne Moore's] twitching facial muscles ..." With Liam Neeson as David (the Gerard Depardieu role in Nathalie), we expect a resoundingly sincere performance, no matter what the character, but Egoyan keeps David's character at bay so we can remain in suspended animation wondering whether he really is having an affair with a student (or two). This serves the story well enough, but not the audience; we feel a tad manipulated.
Julianne Moore rifles through her bag of tricks to bring forth an unlikable and unreliable Catherine whose judgment and impulsive behaviour are theatrically out of kilter. Amanda Seyfried has the hardest task, though, creating the mother of all Gemini characters as Chloe, but she does almost pull it off. The relationship between these two is the centerpiece of the psychological drama, in which Chloe is not merely a tool for Catherine; she is more than a body for rent, and her diagnosis of what her clients want ensures her success. She tells Catherine that at the beginning, but Catherine doesn't understand - until it's too late.
There are some highlights, scenes that suggest Egoyan might have found a way to cut the hard edges off the story and make it a really subtle exploration of an unusual triangle, but he lets his guard slip. There is too little soft porn to satisfy the prurient and too little reality to satisfy the rest.
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CAST: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Max Thieriot, R. H. Thomson, Nina Dobrey, Mishu Vellani, Julie Khaner
PRODUCER: Jeffrey Clifford, Joe Medjuck, Ivan Reitman, Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss
DIRECTOR: Atom Egoyan
SCRIPT: Erin Cressida Wilson (Anne Fontaine's film, Nathalie )
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Paul Sarossy
EDITOR: Susan Shipton
MUSIC: Mychael Danna
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Phillip Baker
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 14, 2010