Monday, May 10, 2010

Chloe ***

Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried
Max Thierot, R.H. Thomson, Nina Dobrev, Mishu Vellani

Why do prostitutes always have unusual names? Are they pseudonyms they take on to embody their profession or is their career choice in a way determined by the way they're called?
This is one of the many enigmas embodied by the monosyllabic title character (played by Seyfried) whose main concern is giving her clients total satisfaction.
As part of her work, as an upscale prostitute, she makes it her job to find out what people want before they do and find ways to fulfill their every fantasy.
When she's approached by gynecologist Catherine Stewart (Moore) and after stating she doesn't work with single women, she encounters a strange request: Catherine wants Chloe to seduce her husband David (Neeson) and find out if he's cheating or if he's willing to do it. Catherine however and not her husband will be the client.
Always the professional, Chloe takes on the assignment and then meets with Catherine who attentively listens to how her husband acts with the young woman.
Seduced by the idea of learning more about her distant husband, Catherine establishes an unorthodox relationship with Chloe which soon proves to be more than either bargained for.
With Chloe Atom Egoyan once again explores sexuality and the way it affects the way we shape out life stories but perhaps because it's not his own screenplay (it was written by Erin Cressida Wilson and based on a French film) he doesn't always succeed in making the plot entirely his own.
The film is divided by two clashing ideologies; a dichotomy of sorts that's fascinating and complex in theory but feels unfinished in execution.
With Chloe and Catherine we have two women who are both extreme opposites and simultaneously compliment each other. They both built careers that depend on genitals, they both lack something in their lives and they are both fascinated by seduction.
But while Chloe relies on the dreams to rule her life and work, Catherine firmly establishes to one of her patients that "an orgasm is simply a series of muscle contractions" and there's "no mystery" to them.
What should we perceive from the fact that in a way Catherine is lying to her patient as she obsesses about the fact that her husband has stopped making love to her. Why doesn't she take this matter to her own hands in a literal way?
The fact that Chloe seems to be more in tune with who she is, should result remarkable until the movie turns her into a version of the character Rebecca de Mornay played in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and seems to pass judgment on her.
Conversely we might also begin to wonder what's going on in Catherine's mind, the way her emotions lead her to act irrationally makes us see her behavior as a self sabotaged attempt at female emancipation.
Can she be creating a diversion to justify her own dissatisfaction with her marriage? While she thinks she's taking her destiny on her own hands in a way she is also relinquishing her happiness to her husband. Is blaming him the only way she can find to become free? In the process isn't she also becoming like him?
The notions of perception and the unknown are wonderfully executed by the two lead actresses, Moore as brilliant as ever, lingers dangerously between paranoia and despair. As she explores the fear of aging she also delivers one of her sexiest performances.
Amanda Seyfried is revelatory and has us guessing her motivations until the very end and in a way it's her performance that elevates the movie from a sloppy sexual thriller to a complex character study.
When Chloe reaches its climax, instead of complaining about the unsurprising road it takes we are left wondering if in the insane turn she takes in the end she wasn't in fact just satisfying Catherine's need for a little drama to make her feel alive?
After all she was the client.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Good review, I agree with you on most except the rating. Seyfried and Moore (and to a slight extent Neeson) are quite good though, so I didn't think it was a bust either.

Jose said...

I read your review and get your point, I was also expecting the film to make a point and it doesn't in the conventional manner.
However it lingers in your mind and forces you to take a second look at the characters and their motivations which is why I gave it that rating.

Simon said...

Well, since I didn't like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, I guess I won't like this.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I felt they steamrolled Amanda in some way. She's no Glenn Close so she wasn't able to keep the humanity amidst all the craziness, but she was working so hard and they just kind of turned her into some psycho.

Jose said...

Simon: ha, perhaps.

Andrew: but despite all that I ended up feeling as if Amanda was psycho by choice, that's why I liked the movie in the end.
She was just pleasing her client, I guess she took "total satisfaction" to the extreme.

Luke said...

Just saw Amanda on Chelsea Lately the other night and found out she's quite funny. Wittier than I'd expected, in fact. But on the subject at hand, it's hard not to be drawn to this movie for Moore alone. Your review intrigues me greatly. Good work. :)

Jose said...

Right on Luke, she's so witty, I can't believe it's only been six years since we saw her first.
You should give this one a look!