Sony // 2009 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 13th, 2010
If the one you love was lying to you, how far would you go to find out the truth?
Generally, two kinds of erotic films get made. The first are the more involved sort, full of candles, and warm reds and browns, and focused intently on the passions between two people, trying to put the audience in the lovers' place. The other kind is more voyeuristic, featuring silver and blue colors, giving an icy, intellectual vibe that distances the audience from the characters. Canadian director Atom Egoyan has been making films (erotic or otherwise) with that kind of voyeuristic coldness for a while now. Thanks to the presence of some fine actors (including current "it" girl Amanda Seyfried), Egoyan's continues his filmmaking trend in Chloe. Aside from some rather rote plot twists, the film offers an interesting look at family, sexuality, and obsession.
Catherine (Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights) is convinced her flirty husband David (Liam Neeson, Five Minutes of Heaven) is having an affair. To find out if the truth she hires Chloe (Amanda Seyfried, Mamma Mia!), a prostitute, to seduce her husband and give her all the gory details. When Chloe tells her that David took the bait, Catherine begins making some decisions that could tear her family apart.
Back in 1987, Fatal Attraction was a big deal. For those who don't remember, the film concerned a married man who had a one night stand with a woman. This woman turned out to be psychotic and threatened the man and his family. Although it was hardly the first erotically charged thriller, it set the standard for the genre, especially with its themes of the endangered nuclear family. Almost twenty-five years later, Chloe has almost the exact same plot, but with a lesbian twist. It's still outside woman threatens upper-middle-class marriage, and it still ends rather predictably.
If this were just a lesbian knock-off of Fatal Attraction, it wouldn't be worth a first, let alone a second look. However, despite the film's adherence to generic formulas, it has a lot going for it. The film's secret weapon is Julianne Moore. While researching this review I discovered that, although she's been nominated four times, she's never won an Academy Award. If I didn't think the Oscar committee would be prejudiced against an "erotic thriller," I would say that Moore's performance in this film could clinch her that little gold statue. Her performance is startlingly naked, both physically in a number of scenes, but also emotionally as she struggles with what she finds out about her husband and the feelings that evokes in her. Whatever other qualities the film does or does not lack, Moore's performance is a scorcher, worth sitting through the rest of the film for. Her foil, Amanda Seyfried, is almost as good; I hope she has a long career ahead of her. She's crafty and innocent in all the right scenes, and she never falls into stereotypical (over)acting when the film's more "thriller" elements come into play.
Speaking of Amanda Seyfried, I'll just get it out of the way: yes, she's naked in Chloe. I suspect that alone will earn the film substantial rentals, considering her popularity circa 2010. However, know going in that her nudity is handled in a somewhat art-house manner. There are lots of teasing side shots, darkened peeks, and never any real full-on presentation of her body or anything. Instead, the scenes between Seyfried and her costars are more about implication and hinting rather than providing any kind of money shot. Another way to say it is that there isn't a single speck of gratuitous nudity in Chloe, and although thrill-seekers might not like it, the film is better for it.
The one-two punch of Moore and Seyfried keeps the film going, but it's Atom Egoyan who determines where those punches land. His eye in Chloe is perfect for the material. Each shot is perfectly framed, and the overall color scheme of muted blues, grays, and whites fits the material perfectly. Even when the plot begins to unravel a bit towards the end, Egoyan handles the visuals well and ensures the film is still beautiful to look at.
That beauty is well represented on this Blu-ray disc. The 1.85:1 transfer is filled with strong detail, solid colors, and consistently deep black levels. There are no compression or authoring problems to speak of, and really nothing to complain about with the looks of Chloe. The audio is equally impressive, if in a more low-key kind of way. Because the film is mostly dialogue, viewers will not notice much surround or sub-woofer action, but the dialogue and music and clear and well balanced.
Extras aren't abundant, but what's here is good. They start with a commentary featuring Egoyan, Seyfried, and writer Erin Cressida. Egoyan keeps things moving, and this is much more an interpretive commentary than it is a factual, production based commentary. There's also a 26-minute making-of that combines the usual interviews with onset footage. Five minutes of deleted scenes give some background on Catherine, and her son, but don't add anything substantial to the film. Finally, we get the film's trailer.
Except for the lesbian angle, there's nothing really new in Chloe, which is rough when the film wants to "thrill" the audience. If Chloe had instead aimed for more dramatic territory and avoided the pitfalls of the thriller genre, it would have been a much more satisfying film viewing experience (and probably opened up the leads to Oscar nods). The film really goes off the rails at the very end, as all the careful ambiguities the film has set up are thrust aside by some final, definitive actions. It's a disappointing way to end an otherwise strong film.
Despite some poor choices in the third act, Chloe is worth watching for Julianne Moore's performance, especially opposite Amanda Seyfried. Director Atom Egoyan keeps the film visually interesting, even when the ending runs off the rails. Although it won't be labeled a special edition or anything, this is a strong Blu-ray release with a great audiovisual presentation and enough extras to satisfy fans. It's worth a rental for those interested in erotic cinema and strong female performances. Those who can't handle nudity or are tired of thriller plots should give this one a pass.
Chloe does some naughty things, but it's still not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes