CHLOE is a somewhat upscale prostitute who plies her charms and skills in the nicer hotels and lounges of Toronto. She’s beautiful and alluring, shrewd and manipulative. And beneath her practiced calm, needy. When a seemingly chance encounter with ‘Catherine’, an attractive middle-aged gynecologist, turns into a pathetic and desperate attempt by the doctor to test her flirt-addicted husbands questionable loyalty, the initial pay-for-play link between the two adept professionals gets to an involvement level that escalates into uncharted psycho-sexual territory.
The first film directed by Atom Egoyan not written by himself, the screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, The Girl On The Train) is a reworking of the 2003 French film Nathalie…which starred Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant and Gérard Depardieu.
Here the precise casting has Julianne Moore as Catherine, Liam Neeson as seemingly errant husband ‘David’ and Amanda Seyfried as the game-changing title scamp. Egoyan interviewed nearly a thousand actresses before hiring luminous 23-year-old Seyfried. No doubt that must’ve been a hellish job, but he likely could not have made a more tantalizing pick to charge up an erotic psychological thriller. That she’s not just beautiful and sensuous but gifted with a delicacy of expression and nuance makes her a formidable match and challenge for Moore, once again at her most open portraying someone closed, briskly capable and bracingly vulnerable. Neeson is strong as ever, though Wilson’s writing for the male characters isn’t as subtle as for the women.
Paul Sarossy’s elegant cinematography and an understated music score from Mychael Danna accentuate the fire & ice mood, gliding to an inevitable climax in a kind of hushed delirium. Other high-profile ventures into the sexual obsession web either grope on the hysterical (in the non-comic sense) side of the bed (Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct both scoring) or crassly floor it to the rug-burn realm (9 ½ Weeks and assorted sordid partiers); this secretive, sinewy hookup has more to do with deeply suppressed need aroused through connecting wounded spirits rather than simple cavalry charge blood rushes to key regions without firm command control. It’s sexy but not sleazy. The actresses bring convection to the heat and conviction to the hurt. *
Produced for $13,000,000, it only drew $3,075,000 in the States (the coupling not nasty enough?) out of a worldwide showing of $11,700,000, marking it a money-failure. Even so it thus far remains Egoyan’s largest box-office score among his 15 (so far) films, which usually enjoy critical plaudits even if audiences do not find them. With Max Thierot. 96 minutes.
* Given the state of the planet, one should never completely rule out sleazy sex: think of it along the lines of spies keeping a cyanide capsule on hand. If Love Makes the World Go Round, whoopee certainly spins our trajectory into warp drive. Why must something so natural and fun, at its Richter-9.9 scale someone tell me—with a straight face– what exactly is more fun, yet cause us so much infernal angst? My stellar track record will not provide an answer, but I can at least wink and suggest scoping out Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, Shame, Lolita, Marnie, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Black Snake Moan, Bound, Auto Focus and Damage. Others might add Belle de Jour, Unfaithful, Looking For Mr.Goodbar, Intimacy, Take This Waltz, Thanks For Sharing or Secretary. Take a shower instead of wasting an urge on Jade, 9½ Weeks, Color Of Night, Sliver, Indecent Proposal, Body Of Evidence, In The Cut…