Atom Egoyan, for those film people out there, is honestly one of the most consistent directors that I’ve watched over my short lifetime. He manages to evoke nuanced performances from everyone of his actors to create beautiful and often shocking interwoven character studies. For a good first time film of his to watch, check out The Sweet Hereafter. The 1997 film follows a small town after a school bus crash that shakes the town to its core. It’s emotional, it’s intense, and at times, profoundly disturbing. There’s so much potential in that piece alone.
However when watching Chloe, that Atom Egoyan that promised the world originality and beauty with his 1997 film is nowhere to be found. However, the blame can’t be placed squarely on his shoulders. Chloe is an attempt at an erotic thriller, starring Amanda Seyfried as the titular character, Julianne Moore as Catherine, and Liam Neeson as her husband, David. It follows Catherine as she hires Chloe, a prostitute, to tempt her husband to see if he will be unfaithful. As if that isn’t messed up enough, things get weirder as Chloe makes it clear that she won’t just go away and inserts herself into Catherine’s family life.
The first issue with the film is more a comment on the erotic thriller as a genre. The erotic thriller is, for all intents and purposes, dead. I mean, sure, it’s possible to still make an erotic movie that has elements of a thriller, but as an audience, most are desensitized to it by now. Whether it be the current exposure to the intimacies of celebrity life, such as sex tapes and crotch flashing, or the earlier erotic thrillers that essentially forced audiences to watch everything, there’s little that can be said or done to shock modern day audiences.
That being said, it doesn’t even feel like Egoyan is trying. The moves are very calculated and save one final plot twist, it’s very predictable. It honestly feels at some points that he watched a string of movies featuring a woman obsessed and took all the better parts of those for his own film. What results is a largely uneven piece on Catherine’s mid-life crisis. There seem to be a couple of attempts at a profound statement but they fall short. Is it supposed to be a commentary on insecurity? Which characters is the audience supposed to feel for or even like? These all seem like easy enough questions, but with this muddled effort, it’s hard to get a straight forward answer.
However, one of the saving graces of the film is the beauty of the cinematography and the acting performances. It sounds strange, but the locations for most of the film are more engaging than some of the dialogue. It ranges from Catherine’s own house to even a simple hotel room, but the beauty of these places is transfixing. Still, Seyfried and Moore turn in impressive performances. There’s a subtlety and an insecurity to each of these characters that makes them kindred spirits in a way. It’s interesting to see the story unfold, even though the climax is somewhat contrived and predictable, mainly because of the actresses that brought them to life.