3.5 Stars out of 4
There’s a magnetism to Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s ‘Chloe’. It has great performances that dare to be melodramatic and a build that moves at a hypnotically slow pace and then moves in for the kill. Be captivated by Chloe, not for its startles, but for its ideas. Everything was sabotaged from the beginning. She seemed like just a call girl, innocent enough, sympathetic, and willing to do any job. You don’t know whether to despise these characters for their voyeur psyches or credit then for their desperate nerve. But Egoyan plays his cards right here. He builds the tension off a searingly taut narrative. This film is so subjective that you can’t help but question everything that happens. Is Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) reliable? Is Catherine’s (Julianne Moore) husband David (Liam Neeson) having an affair? What is so engaging is that the conflict ensues from an initial capricious action by the wife. The contrived acquaintance of Chloe and Catherine serves a frightening purpose: this could have all been avoided if Catherine was not so self-absorbed.
Catherine is convinced David is having an affair. He converses with students on a daily basis online, but he asserts that it is strictly academic purposes. ‘Chloe’ is an attack on curiosity. If we try to wonder too much, we will lose hold of reality. Talk about paranoia. Chloe is hired by Catherine to tempt her husband. She’ll play a school girl to possibly rattle his bones. Will that trigger David’s possible fetish? He seems like a good guy, but is there something deep that turns him on? Chloe claims she does what she does because she strives to find something that is loveable in everyone. Her motives are haunting. She is indeed a terrific lier. Or is she?
After one meeting, Chloe recounts everything with a passive aggressive subtlety. All she did was say hi to David, borrowed his sugar, and smiled at him, in which he responded with a smile as well. Chloe notes to Catherine that she doesn’t usually work for married clients. Catherine looks at Chloe. Something has been triggered. Catherine shoots back: your client is my husband, not me. This is an acute revelation in ‘Chloe.’ Egoyan is smart. He dishes out clues with quick shots of dialogue that resonate together into an intriguing amalgam. Perhaps this whole scheme is not about tempting David, but actually Catherine. Is this all for her sexual intrigue? You need to start asking: what is going on?
‘Chloe’ seeps into Catherine’s life very gradually. She shows up at her work, pretending to be a long-time friend, she flirts with Catherine’s newly single son Michael (Max Thieriot). Chloe becomes more of a daunting dream, an object of Catherine’s fantasies if anything. Chloe is so voluptuous that her presence on screen is utterly melting. It is not that we are supposed to like Chloe (oddly enough she is likeable…interesting) but we are supposed to fall for her. Be caught by her beauty in an alluring gossamer for the film’s duration.
A critic called this film a contemporary Fatal Attraction. But Chloe relies more on suspending your belief if anything. None of the events in this film are believable through Chloe. But she tells everything so vividly that Egoyan pinpoints her cunning stories by showing her interactions with David as succinct breaks from the story. There is no talking. It’s all about what Chloe is saying and how Catherine reacts. It is about these two women, not the silly affair speculation. Egoyan knows that territory is too familiar.
The ending is a slight misstep. Egoyan moves from slow-seductive build to even tension to overblown conclusion. It ends as all these types of films do — everything goes over the edge and push must come to shove. Why the needless closing conflict? From that, the tension loosens.
But Chloe is far from arbitrary. All the scenes happen for a reason and Egoyan pushes the film to cheese territory. He almost dares you to laugh at the drama, declare it hokey, and then call it a day. But Egoyan draws you in, because he takes risks. He gives his settings an almost ostentatious glimmer, with characters that breathe melodramatic temperaments. But Egoyan circumvents that path. He refrains the audience from the pointless plot additions and lets the film build gradually. What is so scary is that I don’t think Chloe finds something loveable in everyone, but rather something to be obsessed about. But so does Catherine in a way. And arguably, she and Chloe, shown through a daunting character parallel, are just the same.
I will note that you will either love this film or hate it. But look past the simplistic-mellow glimmer, it is more equivocal than that.
I SAY: SEE IT.