Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Julianne Moore, Liam
Neeson, Amanda Seyfried
Director: Atom Egoyan
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: July 13, 2010
“Is this turning you on?”
I recently watched Showgirls again for the sake of this website...one of the most notoriously received slices of cinematic eroticism in history. And I only bring it up because I cherish so much what makes a movie like Chloe different from Showgirls. Both are unashamedly frank about sexuality, but Chloe couples eroticism with a sense of truthfulness to character, motive and story. In other words, it titillates, but engages much more than your libido.
I didn't learn until the end that screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson was also the writer behind Secretary, but I clearly saw the connections afterward. Both films venture further into sexuality than most audiences are used to, or possibly even comfortable with. Both have their moments where chuckles might be heard as a way to cover for discomfort or obvious fascination with what unfolds on the screen. Yet both are powered by the people who engage us, and who react and respond to sexuality with real human need, fear, passion and desperation. In other words, any hack can make a porno film, but it takes real artists to show us naked human truth behind naked human flesh.
Director Atom Egoyan has been a favorite of mine ever since his breakout movie Exotica, as deeply engrossing and touching as it was sensual. His next film, however, really cemented his reputation in my mind. The Sweet Hereafter stands as one of THE greatest movies that many people have never seen...haunting, hypnotic, and forever to stay with you after one viewing.
He is the right choice for this material, and though he tends to pen his own screenplays, the collaboration between himself and Ms. Wilson is the right match. Throw in two of cinema's most reliable veteran actors and one younger thespian who is growing in reputation to match, and you have all the ingredients necessary for a first rate...
Well, first rate what? “Erotic thriller” is far too easy and dismissive a category, though it is erotic and it does thrill. It's somewhat of a mystery, playing cards close to the vest until the end. It has the kind of final shot that will inspire much thought and discussion. But truth be told, this movie defies conventional characterization in favor of deep, human drama that can be revealed through its sexuality. In other words, a work of very near brilliance.
Catherine Stewart (Moore) is a successful gynecologist who, at one point, tells a patient that an orgasm is nothing more than a series of muscle contractions...no mystery, no magic. We wonder if her clinical view owes more to her profession or her personal life. Her husband David (Neeson), a successful lecturer on opera, misses his flight home for a surprise birthday party. She often sees him instant messaging with students. He frequently works late. He openly flirts with waitresses, and on the night of his birthday, she finds a picture of him with another woman on his phone.
She has also taken note of a pretty young escort named Chloe (Seyfried). Catherine sees her first outside her office window, and speaks to her at a restaurant before a meeting in a bar to begin their business transaction: she will pay Chloe to attempt to seduce David and report back to her what happens.
At first, very little, but as Catherine pushes, she possibly learns more than she wanted. Chloe is very descriptive and detailed, but Catherine's reaction is not what we expect. It's a reaction that turns the very idea of sexuality on its head for Catherine, and leads the story down surprising paths to an even more surprising conclusion.
This is definitely the kind of movie that requires vagueness when describing. Half of the pleasure of the movie is in the courageousness of the actors and characters in pushing against the normal boundaries of sexuality in deed and language than we're used to seeing. The other half is in seeing how it powers, shapes, and ultimate drives the story to its conclusion.
The high definition transfer brings out a great deal of the Canadian settings' beauty, both in natural and cityscape settings. Interior shots deliver good detail, but occasionally the imagery and colors seem just slightly more softened than you might be used to with Blu-ray.
The film is driven by dialogue, so the DTS HD soundtrack doesn't require nor deliver a great deal of dynamic range or surround effects, but the spoken words are always cleanly delivered against the nice score and other occasional ambient effects.
The extras include a nice commentary with director Egoyan, writer Erin Cressida Wilson and star Amanda Seyfried, plus a good making-of-documentary, two deleted scenes, and a trailer, plus BD Live for your internet-capable player.
Chloe is that rare film that combines intelligence and truthfulness with eroticism. Many filmmakers would present this material with a wink and a nod to alleviate discomfort, but Atom Egoyan remains faithful to the vision presented by Erin Cressida Wilson and doesn't hide the characters' emotions and motivations behind locker room humor.