Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Movie with Abe: Chloe

Directed by Atom Egoyan
Released March 26, 2010

Infidelity is very probably one of the most common themes in movies, dating back to the origins of cinema (see 1932’s “Trouble in Paradise” for an example of how little has changed in 75 years). Temptation emerges as the threat to a deep bond initiated and sealed by the law, and one or both members of a couple may fall prey to that temptation, often prompting the eventual dissolution of their marriage. It’s difficult to find a fresh take on a subject so often probed in so many films, and for all its faults, that is one place in which “Chloe” succeeds brilliantly, launching with a tempting premise that immediately demands attention.

Julianne Moore stars as Catherine, a woman who is led to believe that her husband, David (Liam Neeson) has slept with one of his students. In order to test his loyalty, Catherine hires Chloe, a friendly prostitute, to seduce her husband and see how he reacts. Predictably, the test spirals out of control, but intriguingly, Catherine also finds herself entranced by Chloe’s appeal. Without spoiling too much, it gets to the point that Catherine begins to feel closer to her wayward husband by hearing Chloe tell her about the details of her affair with David. The two form an unexpected bond based on affection for, and more importantly, knowledge of intimacy with, the same man.

Unfortunately, the film can’t sustain the intriguing beginning for the whole of the movie. Interesting as it is, Catherine’s initial move is highly risky and more than a bit of an overreaction, and her seeming nonchalance, coupled with Chloe’s own enthusiasm to undertake the project, detracts from its effect. Like the Clive Owen-Jennifer Aniston film “Derailed,” the film takes questionable turns that make it hard to follow the logic. The story just doesn’t quite add up in a sensible and realistic way, and that becomes problematic because the movie tries to position itself as a narrative that focuses on ordinary people.

The performances, disappointingly, are just as uneven as the film. Moore has delivered exceptional turns in starkly serious period roles like “Far From Heaven,” “The Hours,” and “A Single Man,” but her contemporary role here is nowhere near as magnetic. Moore’s Catherine already seems disgruntled, detached, and ready for failure before she even suspects her husband of cheating, which makes her less of a dynamic character. Neeson’s husband is barely seen, though he gives his all to the few scenes he actually inhabits. Amanda Seyfried, usually the sweetheart in light movies like “Mamma Mia!” and “Dear John,” has the sex appeal down but isn’t believable as the character she’s been cast as here. Chloe is a fierce, memorable personality, but the impression the film leaves is not as strong or lasting as its lead character.


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