When gynaecologist Catherine (Moore) suspects her music professor husband David (Neeson) of infidelity, she lays a honeytrap using delectable call girl Chloe (Seyfried). As she receives feedback from Chloe on the encounters, Catherine's emotional turmoil increases as does the potential impact on her family as a whole.
The film begins with the titular (insert your own joke) Chloe getting dressed and providing a voice over regarding her choice of career. While this leaves no doubt as to what she does, the narration is immediately abandoned and so from then on the reasons for her behaviour become opaque at best.
This mystery is key to how the the film engages throughout but although there are unanswered questions, this could hardly be described as a thriller. The tension and drama comes almost entirely from character and as such works well. It's also erotically charged, unsurprising considering the set up, but surprising since most of it is discussion based, rather than the soft focus flesh-fests of yesteryear. This approach succeeds for the most part and it makes something of a change to see a film focusing on people, their feelings and how they behave rather than simply on action or special effects.
Despite being the title character, this is less a story about Chloe and more about Catherine, played with skill by Julianne Moore. Amanda Seyfried does a good line in emotionally confused seductive temptress, while Neeson provides solid support in a relatively minor role. Chloe is an interesting drama which would have been more impactful emotionally had the final act not descended into slightly hysterical melodrama with a hint of Fatal Attraction about it. But in a world of brainless blockbusters and soulless rom-coms, credit must be given to director Atom Egoyan for making a decent character-driven film.
SECOND OPINION | Mike Martin ?? TheThe trouble with making a film as good as The Sweet Hereafter is you have to follow it up, eventually. Atom Egoyan’s 1997 film looks like it will forever stand as his finest moment, as this is ultimately another disappointment, with brief flashes of his genius. His genre of choice this time is the erotic thriller, which manages to be neither erotic nor particularly thrilling. Neeson and Moore are a successful couple living in their comfortable house surrounded by friends and their adoring son Michael (Thieriot). Here’s the first set of problems – why do couples in these films always live in massive, empty, bleak houses. Why are they always lecturers, and constantly attending classical concerts and sophisticated dinner parties in sumptuous wine bars? It makes it so hard to have any sympathy with the characters – and why is it always snowing?
Anyway, rant over, Moore’s Catherine is a gynaecologist who suspects hubbie David (Neeson) of having an affair. Although she’s clearly very successful she’s clearly not a great gynaecologist – the opening scene has her dismissing a patient who has never had an orgasm by giving her a leaflet. Whether this is intentional or not is not clear. David is constantly flirting, with waitresses, students or any young thing, and when he misses his own birthday party to have a drink with his class Catherine decides to get hard evidence, if you’ll excuse the pun. She hires Chloe (Seyfried), a young hooker, to tempt him to see if he responds, then report back to her. Chloe accepts the job, but then pushes her role as seducer further when she notices Catherine’s apparent arousal while describing her husband’s advances. A game of sexual jealousy begins. The problem is having taken over an hour for the set-up, the film reveals its real purpose in a genuinely touching scene between David and Catherine, then wanders off into Fatal Attraction territory as Chloe sets her sights on Michael. The final scenes ring false and undo a lot of the good work when the central couple discuss the problem of being a couple for so long.
Obviously you have to feel sympathy with Neeson, who lost his real-life wife during filming, and despite a dodgy accent he does his best, as does Seyfried in a role which seems to send her off in three different directions at once – is she a cold-hearted hooker, a Hitchcockian manipulator or a genuinely sexually confused girl? Moore meanwhile is overwrought and borderline hysterical for much of the film, which ultimately grates. Billing it as an ‘erotic thriller’ also seems misleading – there are a couple of vanilla sex scenes, all very soft-focus and tasteful, and the buttock count is as low as the 15 certificate suggests. Seyfried tries her best to look seductive, but in several scenes she looks half of Moore and Neeson’s age, which gives a very different feel to the one intended. The wait for the great Egoyan movie goes on...